ROME

Italy on Wednesday reported 20,709 new cases of the novel coronavirus, up 7% from the day before, as testing picked up pace.

Despite the daily rise in the number of new infections, the general trend seen in the past two weeks confirms that the contagion curve is decelerating.

According to the latest Health Ministry data, the country also recorded 684 new deaths, down from 785 on Tuesday — bringing the national death toll to 57,045, the second-highest in Europe after the UK.

The infection rate continued to drop, reaching 10%, far from the peak at around 18% seen in October, when the contagion curve spiked up. That shows that the virus is still circulating, but at a much slower pace.

After struggling to contain the second wave of the pandemic, the government announced stricter measures for Christmas holidays in a bid to allow people to celebrate with their closest relatives, without risking a third wave of infections early next year.

Italian Health Minister Roberto Speranza unveiled some of the new measures in parliament on Wednesday, while a Cabinet meeting is set for later in the day to approve a special decree for the holiday season.

The new rules — which will be effective from Dec. 4 — will include an almost total ban on international movements and between Italian regions, aimed at avoiding the spread of the virus across the country and limiting huge get-togethers.

The restriction will be even tougher on Dec. 25-26 and Jan. 1, when citizens would not be allowed inter-city travel.

A nationwide curfew at 10 p.m. (2100GMT) will be maintained also on Christmas night and New Year’s Eve, likely obliging Italian churches to call off the traditional midnight mass.

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