Italian health officials said the coronavirus variant found in Britain was prevalent among the country’s infected schoolchildren and warned that the transmission curve was showing signs of a “strong” increase.
Roberto Speranza told reporters that the variant, associated with higher transmission rates, had shown pervasiveness “among the youngest age groups” of the population.
Italy, the country of 60 million people where COVID-19 first erupted in the West in February 2020, has registered nearly 3 million confirmed cases.
Speranza announced stricter directives, embodied in Italy’s new Prime Minister Mario Draghi’s first anti-pandemic decree, which aimed to try to “manage this curve of transmission,” particularly among school-age children.
There were “quite strong signs of an increase in the curve of transmission and a dire variant,” particularly those found in Britain, the minister said.
The president of the government’s Institute of Excellence for Health, Silvio Brusaferro, said that in the analysis of the cases on February 18, 54% of the confirmed COVID-19 cases in Italy involved that variant. But, said Brusaferro, “if measured today the percentage will definitely be higher.”
Another variant, found in Brazil, is now involved in 4.3% of recent COVID-19 cases in Italy, said Brusaferro, especially in central Italy, including in the Rome region.
In recent days, authorities have taken action to close many cities in areas where transmission rates have risen rapidly. The mayor of Bologna, which has 400,000 residents, announced that, from Thursday and until March 21, the city will be under strict “red zone” lockdown rules, meaning all restaurants and cafes are closed for meals, as well as shops that do not. urgent.
Another critical place is Como, a lakeside town near Switzerland. Many Como residents crossed the border.
The variant found in South Africa is involved in 0.4% of COVID-19 infections in Italy and is mainly limited to areas of the Italian Alps near the border with Austria, said Brusaferro.
Draghi’s decision, which took effect on Saturday and lasts until April 6, right after Easter, tightened the measures governing schools. It mandates that all schools, including those for nurseries and elementary students, in the “red zone” must be closed. Some exceptions will be made for students with special needs.
But the decision relaxed boundaries in the world of culture. From March 27th, cinemas and cinemas can reopen in “yellow zone” areas with low incidence and transmission rates of the virus, but these places must limit capacity to 25%. The museum in the yellow zone, which has been permitted to the public on weekdays, can also open on weekends starting March 27.
Gym and swimming pool remain closed. Also left is a national curfew of 10 p.m. to 5 a.m., and a ban on travel between Italian territories.
Italy’s known death toll of more than 98,000 is the second highest in Europe, after Britain.