Italian government under pressure to take further anti-virus measures

Italian Culture Minister Dario Franceschini

A leading member of the Italian government said on Friday that new restrictions were urgently needed to control a surge in coronavirus infections, ANSA reports.

Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte should call a meeting "as soon as he returns from Brussels to decide new national measures to contain the epidemic," Culture Minister Dario Franceschini told ANSA news agency, while Conte was attending a European Union summit in Brussels.

Italy's daily number of coronavirus infections broke records for the third day in a row, with 10,010 cases, up from more than 8,000 on Thursday and nearly 7,000 on Wednesday. Daily deaths peaked at 83 on Thursday and fell to 55 on Friday, a level still significantly higher than the 30-40 recorded late last week and earlier this week.

The government has already tightened anti-virus regulations, for example banning parties and introducing midnight curfews for bars and restaurants, and making mask-wearing mandatory even outdoors. According to the Corriere della Sera newspaper, a new round of measures could include shutting bars and restaurants by 10 pm and closing high schools.

Deputy Health Minister Sandra Zampa, however, told RAI public television that another nationwide lockdown was not under consideration, after the March-May lockdown paralysed the country.

Campania, a southern region including Naples, where the virus is spreading particularly fast, has closed schools for two weeks, despite the national government advising otherwise.

Lazio, the region comprising Rome, and northern regions like Lombardy, which includes Milan, were also struggling with high case numbers.

"The situation in Milan is becoming very alarming and is close to saturation," Massimo Galli, a top virologist at the Sacco hospital in Milan, told the La Repubblica newspaper.

New restrictions in the Lombardy region intended to slow down the spread of the virus were announced later on Friday. The measures, valid from Saturday to 6 November, will among other things limit restaurants and bars to table service only from 6 pm until closure, forbid the consumption of food and beverages on public soil from 6 pm to 6 am and suspend all amateur contact sports.

Earlier Matteo Bassetti, a virologist from the San Martino hospital in Genoa, told the Adnkronos news agency that 10 pm curfews could be a solution in urban areas like Milan, Genoa and Rome.

"We need to do something, the epidemiological situation has degenerated quickly and we did not expect to see such big numbers so soon," he said.

On Thursday, a weekly report from the Ministry of Health and the National Health Institute (ISS) warned that the epidemic had "already entered into an acute phase." The report said the number of positive cases rose to 75 per 100,000 inhabitants in the 28 September - 11 October period, up from 44.37 per 100,000 inhabitants in the previous two weeks.

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