ROME – Italy’s Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte on Sunday unveiled further measures aimed at containing the second wave of the COVID-19 contagion and avoiding a new lockdown that would hit the economy hard.
The latest government measures came as the number of new coronavirus infections hit fresh daily highs, putting additional pressure on hospitals and intensive care units.
“We cannot lose time and we need to act by deploying all the measures necessary to avoid another general lockdown,” Conte said at a press conference, detailing the new restrictions. “The country can’t afford a new setback which would severely jeopardize the entire economy.”
Under the new rules, Italian mayors will have the power to close public squares and other places after 9 p.m., allowing access only to residents and business owners.
Restaurants and bars will close at midnight, but table service will only be permitted after 6 p.m. Restaurants will also allow a maximum of six people seated at any table.
After a heated debate, gyms and swimming pools will remain open, but the premier stressed that they will be under review for one week and if the rules are not strictly followed, they will be closed.
Conte also said that schools and universities will continue to stay open, but they will be encouraged to allow more distance learning.
He said Italy cannot afford to use the same strategy it used last spring to combat the virus’s spread as it would kill the country’s economic recovery, which is just showing positive signs.
“We must commit ourselves to protect both health and the economy,’’ Conte said. “The government is here, but everybody has to do their part.”
The number of new coronavirus cases in the country hit a fresh record Sunday, reaching 11,705 in the last 24 hours, as the number of patients being treated in intensive care continued to rise.
Italy also recorded 69 new deaths, bringing the tally to 36,543.
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