ROME

Italy on Sunday reported 352 new COVID-19 related deaths, down from 533 a day before, but the country continues to register among the highest deaths in Europe.

The country also recorded 15,104 new infections, down from 16,308 on Saturday, confirming the trend observed over the past few weeks, which showed that the pandemic curve is flattening, but at a very slow pace.

Italy on Sunday joined other countries in banning flights to and from the UK due to a fast-spreading coronavirus strain that has led to a lockdown in London.

“As the government, we have the duty to protect Italians,” said Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio on Facebook, announcing the ban.

The Italian government has imposed strict restrictions over the Christmas holidays to limit public movements and large gatherings that could spread the virus across the country, possibly sparking a third wave early next year.

Under new rules, people’s movements on holidays and weekends on Dec. 21-Jan. 6 will be severely limited, with a slight easing only on four working days.

Visits to friends or family members of no more than two people are allowed during the day, 5 p.m.-10 p.m. until a general curfew kicks in.

The new restrictions have banned Christmas lunches in restaurants, but have allowed takeaway and delivery services. The government has also announced additional aid of €645 million ($790 million) to help businesses hit hard by the pandemic.

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