Italy goes into Christmas and New Year lockdown over fears of Covid spike

19 December 2020, 08:35

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte speaks during a press conference regarding the anti-COVID-19 rules that will regulate the end of year holiday
Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte speaks during a press conference regarding the anti-COVID-19 rules that will regulate the end of year holiday. Picture: PA

By Kate Buck

Italy has been ordered into a nationwide lockdown over Christmas as the nation seeks to curb the spiralling number of coronavirus cases.

"Red-zone restrictions" will be brought in over the holidays, with the public banned from travelling for anything other than work, health reasons and for emergency.

Non-essential bars and restaurants will also be closed, and people will only be permitted one trip outside the household each day.

Food shops, hairdressers, pharmacies, tobacconists, laundries and bookstores are allowed to remain open.

Italians are also barred from travelling between regions, and all religious celebrations must finish at 10pm.

Announcing the measures, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said the restrictions were "not an easy decision".

"Our experts were seriously worried that there would be a jump in cases over Christmas... We therefore had to act," he added.

Religious celebrations must finish by 10pm
Religious celebrations must finish by 10pm. Picture: PA

Mr Conte also admitted that police and and the authorities do not have the means to monitor people's compliance with the measures, but has asked all Italians to follow a new limit of not hosting more than two adult guests in a home.

The measures will be temporarily relaxed on December 28, 29, 30 and January 4.

Shops will be allowed to open until 9pm on those days and people will be permitted to move about freely.

Italy's latest announcement comes as UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson comes under increasingly pressure to also restrict Christmas relaxations, which experts fear could lead to a further upward spike and risk overwhelming hospitals.

Mr Johnson has stuck fast to his plan to allow up to three households to create a "Christmas bubble", allowing them to socialise indoors together for five days.

But he has advised that anyone forming these bubbles must limit any contact outside those households.

His warning comes as Dame Donna Kinnair, chief executive and general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing warned the relaxations of Covid rules over the festive season will lead to an "unrelenting tsunami" of cases in the new year.

Wales has deferred from England on the rules, with First Minister Mark Drakeford announcing his latest guidance - which restricts households meeting to two between 23-27 December and brings in a strict level four lockdown from 28 December to counteract the expected spread of the virus.

Level four is the highest level of restrictions in Wales, and resembles a full lockdown similar to the spring.

The Scottish government has asked for people from up to three households to only meet Christmas bubbles for one day and not stay overnight.

Northern Ireland will also bring a six-week lockdown starting from Boxing Day.

The two-household rule in Wales over the festive period will switch from guidance to law, the Welsh Government told LBC.