ROME — Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte has signed off on new pandemic rules that include a nationwide overnight curfew and tighter restrictions on the country’s regions where infections are surging and hospitals risk running out of beds for COVID-19 patients.
The decree is to take effect Thursday. Regions to be hit with the strictest limits are to be announced Wednesday. Those restrictions include at least a two-week ban on entering or leaving the region’s territory and closure of all shops except essential ones like food stores.… Read More
By Giselda Vagnoni, Elvira Pollina and Emilio Parodi
ROME (Reuters) – One month ago, the World Health Organization posted a video praising Italians’ “strong and effective response” to the coronavirus pandemic.
At the time, Italy had one of the lowest infection rates in the Western world and appeared to have learnt the lessons of the first wave, which killed more people than anywhere else in Europe except Britain.
Now it appears that Italy, ahead of the rest of Europe when COVID-19 arrived, was simply behind the curve when it roared back as summer ended. New cases are rising at record rates, hitting 31,758 on Oct. 31 against around 2,500 at the start of the month, while deaths are up tenfold to more than 200 a day.
To be sure, many northern hemisphere countries are also facing a coronavirus resurgence. But just as Italy became a symbol of the perils of the virus, so its inability to protect against a second wave has underscored Europe’s failure to use the summer lull to bolster its defences, notably in tracing and testing.
“It is a monumental debacle. The fact that Italy is in the same situation as other countries in Europe is no comfort to me,” virologist Andrea Crisanti told Reuters. “We had five months to strengthen our surveillance, tracking and prevention systems and instead we are heading towards a new lockdown.”
The government says it wants to avoid another national lockdown and denies failing to anticipate a second wave.
“There may have been mistakes, you can always do better but we have not underestimated the situation. We have worked on all fronts,” Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said last week.
Crisanti, who has become a celebrity with his dogged demands for more testing, published a letter with nine colleagues on Friday listing what they said were the government’s failings, along with recommendations.
One shortcoming, they said, was the system Italy had adopted to trace those who had contact with COVID sufferers and make sure they were tested.
In June, the government employed 9,000 people for this. That has risen to just 9,200, a third of the number Germany employs. The state placed adverts last week to recruit another 2,000.
“We warned the authorities from the very beginning that we would have needed much more people, and people professionally trained, for tracing COVID-19,” said Miria De Santis, head of the national association of health assistants.
“I think the authorities overlooked the risk of the second wave,” she told Reuters.
Franco Locatelli, a leading member of the scientific committee that advises the government, denies the state lowered its guard, but acknowledges that the tracing system has been overwhelmed.
“COVID-19 tracking and testing is absolutely crucial but beyond a certain number of infections, it cracks. I meet 20, 30 people every day, the incubation period of the disease is 2, 3 days. With the current numbers, it means
Italy became the latest European country to announce new restrictions to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus on Sunday as countries across the continent continue to report surging infections.
France on Sunday announced more than 50,000 new infections, a new record for the fourth day running. Germany, widely lauded for its initial handling of the virus, reported a surge of its own. The number of coronavirus cases in Poland has doubled in less than three weeks. And Spain has also imposed new restrictions.
The World Health Organization reported new daily case records worldwide three days in a row last week, with new infections reaching more than 465,000 on Saturday. Almost half of those cases were in the organization’s Europe region. The United States set a new record Friday with more than 82,000 confirmed new infections.
“The pandemic is spreading rapidly again, even faster than at the start of it more than half a year ago,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned in her weekly video podcast.
Jennifer Nuzzo, a senior fellow for global health at the Council on Foreign Relations, called trends in both the United States and Europe “deeply troubling.”
“Unless the U.S. and Europe take decisive action to stop the spread of the virus, we could easily see case numbers that eclipse pre-lockdown levels,” she told The Washington Post. “If case numbers get too large, it may be too difficult to meaningfully slow the virus using measures other than shutdowns.”
Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte announced the new restrictions as the country reported a record 21,273 cases on Sunday. Beginning Monday, restaurants and bars will be required to close by 6 p.m., and gyms, pools and movie theaters must shut down entirely. The restrictions are the fourth round of tightening this month in Italy, and the most severe since the country lifted its nationwide lockdown in May.
Despite a months-long shutdown in the spring, when the country suffered thousands of deaths, an overloaded health-care system and bodies piling up in hospital wards, it’s clear the fight is far from over.
Italy had 1,208 covid-19 patients in intensive care on Sunday — more than on March 9, when Conte announced the lockdown.
“These are difficult days,” Health Minister Roberto Speranza said Sunday, according to the Associated Press. “The curve of contagion is growing in the world. And in all Europe the wave is very high. We must react immediately and with determination if we want to avoid unsustainable numbers.”
Europe appeared to beat back infection rates during the summer. But as economies have reopened and colder weather pushes people indoors, several countries are now reporting case numbers that are eclipsing records set in the spring.
Numbers have soared in the Czech Republic, which in recent days has requested additional ventilators from
By Kirsti Knolle
BERLIN (Reuters) – Germany has issued travel warnings for popular ski regions in Austria, Italy and Switzerland, scrambling to contain the spread of the coronavirus as new infection numbers rose above 10,000 a day for the first time.
While infection rates in Germany are lower than in much of Europe, they have been accelerating, with a daily rise of 11,287 cases bringing the total to 392,049. Germany’s death toll stands at 9,905.
“The situation has become very serious overall,” Lothar Wieler, head of the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases, said.
“We still have a chance to slow the spread of the pandemic,” he said. But he said people must stick to the rules and that Germany must prepare for an uncontrolled spread of the virus.
On Wednesday, German Health Minister Jens Spahn became the latest prominent politician to test positive for the virus. His spokesman said he had symptoms of a cold but no fever. Government sources said he was fit for work.
Berlin issued new travel warnings for Switzerland, Ireland, Poland, most of Austria and some Italian regions including the popular skiing region of South Tyrol.
Britain, except the Channel Islands, the Isle of Man and the overseas territories, is also seen as a high risk area.
Under the warnings, which take effect from Saturday, travellers returning to Germany must quarantine for 10 days. Quarantine can be lifted early, if a test taken after five days comes back negative.
The surge in Germany also prompted the Danish government to warn its citizens against travel to and from Germany, except for the border state of Schleswig Holstein.
Germany’s move could significantly impact the Alpine countries’ ski season. Especially Austria, which reported a record 2,435 new daily infections on Thursday, is a popular destination for Germans.
Switzerland Tourism’s spokesman Markus Berger said the news from Germany was obviously not good. The industry hoped that the situation would improve over the next one or two months.
“We assume that the winter season can go ahead,” he said.
However, there was positive news for Spain’s Canary Islands as the RKI removed it from its risk list, lifting hopes there for German tourists over Christmas and New Year.
(Additional reporting by Inti Landauro, Silke Koltrowitz and Andreas Rinke and Jacob Gronholt-Pedersen in Copenhagen; editing by Maria Sheahan and Angus MacSwan)
A delivery person passes near St. Peter’s Basilica, as Italy tightens measures to try and contain the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Rome, Italy.
Remo Casilli | Reuters
Italy announced a raft of new restrictive measures aimed at curbing a second wave of coronavirus cases.
From Monday, local mayors will have the power to close public areas, such as squares and streets, after 9 p.m. in order to limit public gatherings which have been seen as one of the main reasons for a new spike in coronavirus infections.
Announcing the new restrictions on Sunday, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said that bars and restaurants are allowed to stay open until midnight (but can be closed earlier if local leaders deem that necessary) if there is table service, but must close at 6 p.m. if not. Social gatherings in bars and restaurants are restricted to six people per table.
“We mustn’t waste time,” Conte said as he announced the new measures in a televised address. “The country can’t allow another lockdown that would severely compromise the entire economy.”
Other measures introduced include encouraging distance learning for older students and staggered entry times to schools for other pupils. Contact sports at an amateur level remain banned, and gyms and leisure facilities have to adapt to the new measures. Local festivals are banned too.
On Sunday, 11,705 new infections were reported, up from 10,925 on Saturday and 10,010 the day before that, government data shows. Italy has recorded 414,241 cases in total, according to Johns Hopkins University.
Conte said Sunday the strategy being followed now to curb the spread of infections “isn’t, and can’t be, the same as the one implemented in spring.|
Then, at the start of the pandemic, Conte said, Italy hadn’t been prepared with enough intensive care equipment and masks, or able to do enough tests. Since then it had procured equipment, produced and distributed millions of masks among students and carried out up to 160,000 tests per day.
Italy was the epicenter of Europe’s initial coronavirus outbreak in February, with the first clusters of cases seen in Lombardy, before spreading to other regions in northern Italy and further afield into the rest of Europe.
Italy was the first part of Europe to introduce a local, then regional and finally a national lockdown in early March to stop the spread of the virus, meaning that all but food retailers and pharmacies closed and people could only leave their homes for essential reasons.
Italy’s economy has been hit hard by the lockdown earlier this year. The International Monetary Fund’s latest economic forecasts predict that Italy’s economy will contract 10.6% in 2020. Bank of Italy Governor Ignazio Visco said in an interview with Bloomberg Friday that it will take at least two years for the country’s economy to get back to pre-Covid levels.
Italy has begun easing key restrictions after a two-month coronavirus shutdown. 4.4 million Italians are able to return to work and some limits on movement have been removed in the first European country to impose a lockdown during the pandemic. (May 4)
ROME – Italy and the United States are a study in contrasts when it comes to the way they confronted the pandemic.
Italy was the first country hit hard after the virus spread beyond China’s borders, and after some early missteps, the country took decisive action. Italy’s national lockdown was the first in Europe during peacetime, and it was stricter and lasted longer than those in other countries. Rules were closely enforced by police with the power to levy fines.
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Leaders followed the same mask and social distancing guidelines as everyone else, as Italian factories started manufacturing ventilators, masks and other protective equipment. Whenever a cluster of cases emerged, the area was quickly quarantined and the sick cared for by a free public health system.
Most importantly, Italians overwhelmingly followed the rules.
“In Italy, we might have a reputation as being a nation of disorganized rule breakers, but the truth is people tend to follow the advice of their doctors,” said Giovanni Sebastiani, a researcher and member of Italy’s National Research Council. “Our lockdown was long, we only reopened in measured stages, and almost everyone did what they were supposed to do.”
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Italy, a country of 60 million, was the first in the world to have 200,000 official coronavirus cases (on April 28) and the first to record 30,000 deaths (May 7). By late May the daily infection rate dropped from more than 5,000 to the low triple digits – and for the most part, it stayed there until last month.
Life under coronavirus lockdown in Italy: My quarantine, a worried wait for a test result – and relief
As is the case in most countries in Europe, COVID-19 infections in Italy are rising again, and the country topped 10,000 new infections Friday, breaking its daily high for positive tests. The World Health Organization warned that the virus is rapidly spinning out of control in Europe and the region has reached a tipping point to contain a coronavirus second wave.
Coronavirus infections per million in Italy and the USA since March 2020 (Photo: Max Roser, Hannah Ritchie, Esteban Ortiz-Ospina and Joe Hasell (2020) – “Coronavirus Pandemic (COVID-19)”. Published online at OurWorldInData.org. Retrieved from: ‘https://ourworldindata.org/coronavirus’)
Daily infection rates have spiked to more than 14,000 in Spain, nearly 20,000 in the U.K. and nearly 30,000 in France – all far above their peaks from the spring. The USA has averaged 50,000-60,000 cases per day since the start of October, according to the COVID Tracking Project. The USA has had roughly 8 million cases and more