Two-Thirds of Italians Set For Lockdown as Pandemic Worsens

The government of Prime Minister Mario Draghi is weighing stringent new restrictions on as many as two-thirds of Italians, with the regions encompassing the country’s largest cities possibly heading into lockdown amid a resurgence in the pandemic.

The tightening would bring Italy full-circle just over a year after it became the first Western country to enter lockdown to stop the spread of the coronavirus. Infections rose to a three-month high this week after the more contagious U.K. strain took hold amid a slow vaccine roll-out.

Draghi’s cabinet was due to meet at 11:30 a.m. on Friday to decide whether to automatically designate regions as high-risk “red zones” if they have more than 250 weekly cases per 100,000 inhabitants, according to a draft of a new decree seen by Bloomberg. The draft is subject to change.

The new decree would go into effect starting Monday and could effectively send many regions, including those surrounding Milan and Rome, into full lockdown. The restrictions would remain in force until April 6. During the Easter holidays, from April 3-5, all of Italy would be a “red zone,” except for the few areas at the least risk of contagion, according to the draft.

Combined with restrictions already in place, the new measures could mean that as many as 14 of Italy’s 20 regions will be under the strictest level of controls. Bars and restaurants in these areas will be closed, as will schools and many stores. Citizens will be mostly confined to their homes. In medium-risk “orange areas,” two adults can visit a private home within their town once a day until April 2, the draft says.

Vaccine Campaign

With daily infections reaching a three-month high, Draghi, the former head of the European Central Bank, is seeking to speed up a slack vaccination campaign to 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.

Two-Thirds of Italians Set For Lockdown as Pandemic Worsens

The premier has faced objections from two parties in his coalition, the anti-migrant League led by Matteo Salvini and Silvio Berlusconi’s center-right Forza Italia, which had pushed to reopen businesses in at least some areas.

Draghi on Friday at 3 p.m. will visit a vaccination center at Fiumicino airport outside Rome, where he is due to give a speech on containment efforts. The administration is targeting inoculations by summer for all Italians who want them. So far, 6.1 million vaccine doses have been administered, with only 3% of the population fully vaccinated.

The government is also working on plans to allocate about 10 billion euros ($12 billion) to extend support for the labor market, part of a broader 32 billion-euro package. The funds would be used to extend a ban on redundancies in the services sector until the end of the year and to finance other measures including furloughs.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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