Half of Italy’s regions have gone back into a strict lockdown, with a spike in coronavirus infections putting pressure on hospitals.
The new restrictions came into effect on Monday in nine regions – including Lazio, where Rome is located – and the autonomous province of Trento.
Schools, restaurants and non-essential shops are shut, and travel limited to work requirements, the purchase of basic necessities and health emergencies.
These areas were designated ‘red zones’ as the country continued to battle the COVID-19 pandemic, a little more than a year after the country enforced the first lockdown in Europe.
The new measures will be in place until at least 6 April.
The Health Ministry has developed a tiered status of restrictions classifying individual regions on a weekly basis based on their infection rates, hospital capacity and other criteria.
Until recently only a few hard-hit regions were under full lockdown, but new clusters of highly contagious virus variants, such as that from the UK, have meant more regions have passed into the tightest ‘red zone’ restrictions, even as vaccinations ramp up.
The country expects an improvement “in the second half of spring”, according to its Health Minister Roberto Speranza.
Italy recently became the second country in Europe to officially confirm more than 100,000 deaths from coronavirus, after the UK.
There have been more than 3.2 million cases in Italy, which was the initial hotspot for the outbreak in Europe last year.