Italy to Slightly Tighten Virus Curbs as Cases Hit Record High
(Bloomberg) -- Italy is set to announce slightly tighter coronavirus measures to slow the spread of the omicron variant, on a day infections hit their highest since the start of the pandemic.
The country reported 44,595 new positive cases on Thursday, an increase of more than 18,000 from a week ago.
While cases are climbing, occupancy in Italy’s intensive care units remains far lower than a year ago, when the country was in its second lockdown. There are some 1,023 patients in ICUs now compared to more than 4,000 at 2020’s peak. Average daily deaths are at a fraction of the peaks seen in spring of 2020 and last winter.
Still, the spike in infections threatens to derail the country’s economic recovery and stymie tourism again, as Europe braces for the highly transmissible mutation to become dominant in the coming weeks.
The new variant currently represents 28% of cases, Italy’s national health institute said earlier Thursday.
Prime Minister Mario Draghi and key ministers decided on Thursday to reimpose mandatory use of protective masks outdoors throughout the country, and to reduce the length of validity for Covid passports to six months from the current nine, a spokesperson said.
Italy will also reduce the time between second vaccinations and booster shots to four months, while adding new access restrictions for the unvaccinated at restaurants and cafes.
The measures are due to be officially adopted at a cabinet meeting later Thursday.
Draghi said during a press conference Wednesday that new lockdowns aren’t currently among measures being considered, even for the unvaccinated.
Italy operates a three-tier system that defines restrictions for each region, and regional governments are authorized to add their own measures. Several of the country’s 20 regions have already imposed new rules, including the cancellation of planned events around Christmas and New Year’s Eve.
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