MILAN (Reuters) – Italy reported a further daily record total of 19,644 new coronavirus cases on Saturday as the government considers further restrictions including early closings of bars and restaurants to contain the pandemic’s resurgence.
Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said he wanted to avoid a repeat of the locking of the blankets earlier in the year. However, a number of regions have imposed curfews and the central government is expected to announce further action soon.
Conte promised on Saturday to speed up assistance for businesses suffering in the crisis but said the weeks ahead would be very complex. “We cannot lower our defenses,” he added.
According to the draft decree, public gyms and swimming pools may be closed and bars and restaurants told to close from 6pm, while people will be encouraged not to travel outside their home districts.
Like many authorities across Europe, the Italian government is desperate not to shut down the economy completely, but faces growing public anger over new restrictions imposed to restrict public gatherings.
Late Friday night, a crowd in the southern city of Naples clashed with police in protest against a curfew in the Campania region.
Earlier this week, a curfew was ordered by local governors in Campania, Lazio around the capital Rome, and Lombardy, the epicenter of the first wave in which the financial capital Milan recorded more than 1,000 new cases on Saturday.
The northern regions of Piedmont and Sicily to the south will follow next week and other regions are expected to match them.
With public health services under pressure, authorities have reopened temporary intensive care facilities built during the first phase. Nonetheless, Italy’s top public health agency warned on Friday that services were nearing a point of crisis.
The death rate remains well below the previous peak of more than 900 deaths a day but continues to rise, with 151 deaths reported as of Saturday.
(Reporting by James Mackenzie; Editing by Alison Williams and James Drummond)
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