Italy, the worst-hit European country by COVID-19, has ordered a nationwide lockdown on the occasions of Christmas and New Year to combat a rise in COVID-19 cases.
Under the new lockdown rules during public holidays, non-essential shops, restaurants and bars will be closed. People would only be allowed to go to work or travel for health and emergency reasons. Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte admitted in a news conference that it was “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 said.
Italy has the highest Covid-19 death toll in Europe, with nearly 68,000 fatalities.
The “red-zone” restrictions will be in place in Italy on 24 to 27 December, 31 December to 3 January, and 5 to 6 January.
During these holidays, people “can leave the house only for reasons of work, necessity and health,” Mr Conte said.
But, he added, the rules would allow people to receive a maximum of two guests, not including under the age of 14, in their homes. A night curfew from 10:00 to 5:00 will remain in place.
Mr Conte said the launch of the vaccination drive later this month would mark the beginning of “the end of this nightmare.”
FRENCH PRESIDENT: Emmanuel Macron, who was tested positive for Covid-19, remains in quarantine in the official presidential residence at Versailles. He said he was suffering from fatigue, headaches and a dry cough.
EUROPE: Meanwhile, more European countries have been tightening restrictions ahead of Christmas following a surge of infections. The Netherlands and Germany have imposed lockdowns until January. In Germany, there will be slight lax in restrictions, with one household allowed to host up to four close family members.
In Austria, the government announced the third phase of lockdown after Christmas. From 26 December, non-essential shops will be shut and movement outside homes restricted.
Sweden has made wearing face masks on public transport compulsory again, reversing its earlier guidance. It will also cut from the current eight to four per table the number of people sitting together in restaurants, and ban alcohol sales after eight o’clock
Slovak Prime Minister Igor Matovic, who attended an EU summit with Mr Macron last week, said he had tested positive for coronavirus on Friday.
Several other European leaders who were also at the summit, including the prime ministers of Belgium, Spain, Portugal and Luxembourg, said they would self-isolate.
Meanwhile, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson expressed the hope that there would be no national lockdown, although Covid-19 cases have been increasing in recent weeks.