ROME

Italy reported 20,331 new coronavirus infections on Wednesday, up from 15,378 a day before, as the government struggles to block the second pandemic wave across the country.

The Italian Health Ministry also reported 548 new coronavirus-related deaths, down from 649 on Tuesday.

Experts said that despite the strict measures adopted over the Christmas holidays, the few days of shopping ahead of vacations contributed to the spread of the virus.

Authorities have also tried to speed up the pace of the national vaccination campaign, which has been lagging behind in some regions, including the highly populated Lombardy.

According to the latest data, about 261,000 people have been vaccinated across Italy, the second highest number in Europe after Germany.

Italy’s nationwide three-tier system will remain in place until mid-January, along with the nationwide evening curfew from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. local time.

Amid the health emergency, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte also faces a political showdown with his coalition partner Matteo Renzi that could even bring down his government.

The crucial day is Thursday, when Conte will seek support from all his ministers for his economic recovery plan, which could lead Renzi’s Italia Viva party to quit the coalition and pave the way to a government crisis.

At that point, the prime minister is expected to go to the parliament and start work on trying to find a new majority.

Analysts noted that in the most likely scenario, the crisis will lead to the creation of a new government backed by the same coalition partners led by Conte or another newly designated prime minister.

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