Italy under new virus restrictions over Christmas, New Year

Italy, one of the countries worst hit by the novel coronavirus, will be placed under new restrictions over the Christmas and New Year periods, according to a government decree published on Saturday, December 19.

Under the new measures, already announced by Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte late Friday and coming into effect from Monday until January 6, the whole of country will be classified as "red" – the highest level of restrictions. 

This means people will be allowed to leave their homes only once per day to visit friends or relatives, and travel between regions will be banned. 

And starting from December 24, bars and restaurants will also be closed. 

"Our experts fear that the infection curve will increase during the Christmas period," Conte said.

The prime minister conceded that the authorities did not have the means to ensure the measures were adhered to, but he asked Italians to respect a new limit to the number of people who meet and host only two adult guests at home.

Food shops, hairdressing salons, pharmacies, tobacconists and laundries as well as bookstores will, however, remain open.

Conte specified that the confinement would be relaxed on December 28, 29, 30, as well as on January 4, when shops would be able to remain open until 9 pm and people would be allowed to move about freely.

Italy has 60 million inhabitants and one of the oldest populations in Europe. 

More than 68,000 people have died from COVID-19 in the country since the start of the pandemic

"It's right that they prohibit departures after 20 December if it means traveling in safety," Claudia Patrone, a 33-year-old lawyer, told Agence France-Presse (AFP) as she got off a train in Milan's Central Station, one of Italy's busiest. 

"I took the test before leaving, I stayed locked in my house, I didn't see anyone. The measure is right if everyone respects the rules and guarantees safety," she said.

Michele Lettini, a 64-year-old pensioner living in Milan, said: "The new decree is fine, but I would have been even more restrictive, I would have extended the red zone to all holidays to avoid contagions." – Rappler.com