Coronavirus: Italy plans further curbs as COVID-19 cases hit new record

Italy faces a surge in the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) infections, in Rome. (Reuters)

Italy reported a further record daily total of 19,644 new coronavirus cases on Saturday as the government considered further restrictions including early closures of bars and restaurants to contain a resurgence of the pandemic.

Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte has said he wants to avoid a repeat of the blanket lockdown earlier in the year. But a number of regions have imposed overnight curfews and the central government is expected to announce more measures soon.

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Conte pledged on Saturday to speed up help for businesses suffering in the crisis but said the weeks ahead would be very complex. "We cannot lower our guard," he added.

According to a draft decree, public gyms and swimming pools may be closed and bars and restaurants told to shut from 6 p.m., while people will be encouraged not to travel outside their home districts.

Police officers stand guard as people protest after regional authorities in the southern Campania region imposed a curfew to curb coronavirus disease (COVID-19) infections in Naples. (Reuters)

Police officers stand guard as people protest after regional authorities in the southern Campania region imposed a curfew to curb coronavirus disease (COVID-19) infections in Naples. (Reuters)

Like many authorities across Europe, the Italian government is desperate not to close down the economy completely but is facing growing public anger at renewed restrictions that are being imposed to limit public gatherings.

Late on Friday, crowds in the southern city of Naples clashed with police in protest against a night-time curfew in the Campania region.

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Earlier in the week, overnight curfews were ordered by local governors in Campania, Lazio around the capital Rome, and Lombardy, the epicentre of the first wave where the financial capital Milan recorded more than 1,000 new cases on Saturday.

The northern region of Piedmont and Sicily in the south will follow next week and other regions are expected to match them.

With public health services coming under strain, authorities have reopened temporary intensive care facilities built during the first phase. Despite this, Italy's top public health body warned on Friday services were approaching crisis point.

The mortality rate remains well below the earlier peak of more than 900 deaths in a day but it has moved up steadily, with 151 deaths reported on Saturday.

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Last Update: Saturday, 24 October 2020 KSA 22:59 - GMT 19:59
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