Coronavirus Health Italy

Italy heads back into lockdown as third wave advances across Europe

Multiple regions in Italy will be locked down from Monday, the Italian Ministry of Health announced on Friday.

The most populated regions including Lombardy and Lazio, where Rome is located, will be classified as “red zones” which is Italy’s maximum level of coronavirus restrictions.

Non-essential shops and restaurants have to close in a red zone. Travel will be limited to work requirements, the purchase of basic necessities and health emergencies.

All regions in Italy will move to the red zone over the Easter holiday from April 3 to 5, Italian media reported as well.

Regions that have an incidence rate of more than 250 new cases per 100,000 inhabitants will automatically pass into the red zone moving forward.

Italy’s health ministry had said in their most recent situation report that there had been a “deterioration” of the coronavirus risk level in the country amid a rising incidence rate.

In early March, travelling between regions had already been prohibited. The country had also imposed a curfew from 10:00pm to 5:00am. 

The country reported more than 26,000 COVID-19 cases and some 380 deaths in the past day due to coronavirus. Since the beginning of the pandemic, the country has recorded more than 3.1 million cases and deplored the death of 101,564 people — making it the hardest-hit EU country.

More than 6.3 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccines have been administered.

Vaccine campaign

Italy began its coronavirus vaccination campaign in late December but, as elsewhere in Europe, it has been dogged by delays in deliveries of the jabs.

Draghi has made stepping up the pace of vaccines one of the priorities of his new national unity government, and on Friday said this “alone gives hope of a way out of the pandemic”.

Concerns over reported side effects of the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine prompted Italy’s health regulator on Thursday to suspend a batch of the jabs, even while saying there was no evidence of a suggested link with blood clots.

Draghi noted the review underway by the EU’s medicines regulator, saying that whatever the outcome, “I can assure you that the vaccination campaign will continue with renewed intensity”.

He has put a senior military officer, General Francesco Paolo Figliuolo, in charge of the coronavirus crisis and has vowed to open vaccine centres wherever possible, including gyms and car parks.

About 170,000 vaccines are currently being administered each day, Draghi said, but “the target is to triple that soon”.

Elsewhere, Bulgaria, Denmark and Norway have all paused the use of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine over fears it causes blood clots. 

The World Health Organization said on Friday there was no indication this was true, stressing that countries should not stop using the vaccine.

In other developments across Europe:

  • Poland registered nearly 19,000 new daily cases on Friday – the highest number since November
  • Germany reported a rapid rise in infections among schoolchildren, with new Covid variants blamed
  • In France , the number of patients in intensive care units exceeded 4,000 – the record figure for more than three months. The government has not ruled out more regional lockdowns
  • Slovakia and the Czech Republic were hit by government crises over buying non-EU approved vaccines
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