Italy Eyes Lockdown as Draghi Pledges Faster Vaccine Campaign

Prime Minister Mario Draghi pledged to triple Italy’s daily rate of coronavirus vaccinations, as most of the country faces a new lockdown one year after the pandemic started.

“Italy is administering about 170,000 doses a day, our aim is to triple that,” Draghi said in one of his first public appearances as premier. “We are already seeing the first signs of this acceleration.”

Draghi spoke after a visit to a vaccination center set up at the Fiumicino airport outside Rome, where he toured the facility escorted by a doctor from the Red Cross.

Earlier Friday, the government approved a decree automatically designating regions as high-risk “red zones” if they have more than 250 weekly cases per 100,000 inhabitants, according to a statement from his office.

The rules will go into effect Monday and combined with measures already triggered by the spread of the virus, they could effectively send a number of regions, including those surrounding Milan and Rome, into lockdown. That would affect as many as two-thirds of Italians.

Draghi also promised substantial economic aid to affected business and families, which will require a request to increase the country’s deficit.

New Measures

“New economic measures are substantial and cover a larger set of beneficiaries,” Draghi said. They will include extending furloughs and support for families affected by school closures.

The new measures bring Italy almost full-circle just over a year after it became the first Western country to go into a lockdown. Infections have reached a three-month high since the more contagious U.K. strain appeared in the country amid a sluggish vaccine roll-out.

Draghi, the former head of the European Central Bank, is seeking to speed up the vaccination campaign to both counter the pandemic and restart an economy that shrank 8.9% last year. The country registered 25,673 new cases Thursday, compared to 22,409 the previous day.

As many as 14 of Italy’s 20 regions could now fall under the strictest level of controls. Bars and restaurants in these areas will be closed, as will schools and many stores. Citizens will mostly be confined to their homes. In medium-risk “orange areas,” two adults can visit a private home within their municipality once a day until April 2, according to the draft.

Health Minister Roberto Speranza on Friday evening will issue an order establishing how regions’ risk-level ratings will change, based on the latest data and other parameters.

The new restrictions are due to remain in force until April 6. During the Easter holidays, from April 3 to April 5, all of Italy will be classified a red zone, except for a few areas which are at the minimal contagion-risk level, according to the statement.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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