Dec 18, 2020 - Health

Italy orders holiday season coronavirus lockdown

Two soldiers wearing face mask patrol Duomo Square in Milan, Italy

Two soldiers wearing face masks patrol Duomo Square in Milan, Italy on Dec. 13. Photo: Andrea Verdelli/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Italy's Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte announced Friday that he has ordered a national lockdown for the Christmas and New Year's holidays as the country continues to see a surge in cases and deaths.

Why it matters: Italy has been one of the hardest-hit Western countries, with 67,894 coronavirus-related deaths as of Friday — the most in Europe.

Details: Conte said nonessential stores must close between Dec. 24-27, Dec. 31-Jan.3 and Jan. 5-6, per Reuters.

  • Travel on those days will only be allowed for work, heath or emergency issues. People will also be allowed to visit elderly family members living alone.
  • Restaurants and bars must close through the holiday period, except for takeout.
  • Conte said police would not specifically check that the rules were being followed inside homes, but he urged Italians to be responsible, Reuters reported.
  • Conte said 645 million euros ($790 million) has been set aside to help restaurants and other businesses in the hospitality sector.
  • Worth noting: The country had already passed a decree restricting movement between regions from Dec. 21 to Jan. 6.

What he's saying: “The situation is difficult across Europe. The virus continues to circulate everywhere,” Conte told reporters, per Reuters.

  • “Our experts were seriously worried that there would be a jump in cases over Christmas. ... We therefore had to act, but I can assure you it was not an easy decision.”

The big picture: Governments have struggled to determine how best to stem the expected surge in cases due to the holiday season.

  • Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz announced on Friday the country will go into a lockdown after Christmas. All non-essential shops, which reopened last week, must close from Dec. 26-Jan. 18. Restaurants and museums must also remain closed until Jan. 18, and schools will be required to continue remote learning until after Jan. 15.
  • Mexico City and the neighboring State of Mexico will ban nonessential activities starting Saturday until at least Jan. 10, officials announced Friday.
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