There will be no major Easter gatherings in Italy this year. With another surge in COVID-19 cases hitting the European nation, new restrictions have been put into place starting today, including a nationwide lockdown for Easter weekend from April 3 through April 5, CNN reported. By Rachel Chang
The “red zone” regions — those with more than 250 cases per 100,000 residents — are now under strict lockdowns, with all non-essential stores closed and people only allowed to leave their homes for work or health reasons. Currently, half of Italy’s 20 regions, including the cities of Milan, Rome, and Venice, are under those orders. Those in the “orange zone” can’t leave their towns or regions, but restaurants and bars are allowed to offer takeout and delivery, the news site explained. The current restrictions will be in place through at least April 6.
On top of that, all of Italy will be considered a “red zone” during Easter weekend — a tremendous hit on the largely Roman Catholic country, which was also in lockdown during the holiday last year.
More than a year into the pandemic, Prime Minister Mario Draghi realises the impact of the measures but says they are essential in light of the recent spike of the more contagious COVID-19 variant. “I am aware that today’s measures will have an impact on children’s education, on the economy, but also on the psychological state of us all,” Draghi said on Friday, The New York Times reported. “But they are necessary to avoid a worsening that will make inevitable even more stringent measures.”
The nation has seen 155,656 new cases and 2,360 new deaths in the last week, according to data from Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center. Though 6.7 million vaccine doses have been administered, only two million (or 3.32 per cent of the population) are fully vaccinated.
PM Draghi says the recent week-to-week spike is about 15 per cent. Just last Thursday, there were upwards of 25,000 cases, which was the record high since November. On Friday, it reached 26,000, CNN reported. The more contagious B.1.1.7 variant, originally found in the UK, is now prevalent in Italy, while there are also some areas with the Brazilian P.1 variant.
Italy had just started loosening its restrictions about six weeks ago, reopening restaurants and museums. As one of the early epicentres of COVID-19 last year, the country was also one of the first to impose lockdowns, with its first nationwide shutdown implemented in early March. To date, Italy has had 3,223,142 cases and 102,145 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins data, making it the country with the seventh-highest number of cases in the world.