One of the countries in the world most affected by the first wave of Covid-19, Italy will tighten and widen its restrictions again next Monday (15), to ensure what is called in Europe the third wave.
“The memory of what happened last spring is alive and we will do everything to prevent it from happening again,” Prime Minister Mario Draghi said.
With more than 3 million cases since the start of the pandemic and a total of 101,000 deaths, the country appears to have controlled the contagion in January, but the situation has reversed. For four consecutive weeks, new infections recorded an increase, mainly attributed to the so-called “British” B.117 variant.
More contagious and deadlier, according to recently published research, the variant has already led to healthcare system chaos in other European countries, such as the UK itself and Hungary.
This Friday, the number of positive tests for Covid-19 in Italy exceeded 26,000, more than double the rates at the beginning of the month, and in the last fortnight, 5,000 patients were hospitalized and 650 new patients were admitted to the unit intensive care.
To avoid a further hospital collapse and excess deaths, the Italian government has determined that from Monday regions in the yellow zone will automatically switch to orange and reclassify as red all those exceeding 250 new cases. confirmed per 100,000 inhabitants.
In this category, in which the regions of Campania, Basilicata and Molise have been located until now, schools of all levels are closed and bars and restaurants cannot receive clients. Traffic is only allowed for work that cannot be done at home, health emergencies or essential purchases.
According to the new rules, the most populous regions of the country should also enter the strictest containment, such as Lazio (region of Rome), Lombardy (where Milan is located), Veneto (where Venice is located), the Piedmont, Emilia Romagna and Calabria.
During the Easter holidays at the beginning of April, the whole country will be in the red zone, with the exception of Sardinia, the only region considered to be a white zone in Italy.
Draghi, who took over as prime minister with great popular approval a month ago, said he was aware that “the measures will have consequences for children’s education, the economy and our psychological state in whole “, but that the tightening of the measures are essential to avoid a new health crisis.
Research published in the Italian media shows that support for confinement is not in the majority, but has increased: 44% of Italians say they are in favor of confinement last weekend, against 30% a fortnight earlier .
To defuse objections, Draghi pledged to announce next week an additional package of measures for businesses and workers affected by the restrictions.
The pandemic put another million Italians below the poverty line in 2020, according to a survey by the National Institute of Statistics, bringing the number of poor to 5.6 million, or 9.4% of the population (against 7.7% in 2019), the highest rate since 2005.
Although the prime minister has also pledged to triple the country’s vaccination rate – currently 170,000 injections per day – plans could be affected by lower shipments from manufacturers, which has already pushed the government to block the export of 250,000 doses of AstraZeneca at the beginning of the month.
More than the lack of vaccines, vaccination campaigns in the EU have been affected by restrictions imposed by governments themselves. In Italy, 84% of the 6.4 million doses received have been applied until Friday. In the case of the AstraZeneca product, less than half reached the Italians.
The country was one of those that initially blocked the use of the vaccine in the elderly and this week announced the suspension of the administration of a batch, but returned after the agency’s recommendation to European regulation.