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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.

Go deeper

Jan 29, 2021 - Health

NYC set to restart indoor dining in February, weddings in March

Outdoor dining in New York City in January. Photo: Alexi Rosenfeld/Getty Images

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Friday that if the current coronavirus positivity in New York City holds, indoor dining will reopen at 25% capacity on Feb. 14, one of the busiest dining days of the year.

Why it matters: The forced closure of indoor dining in December caused major backlash, as New York's struggling restaurant industry had already been hit hard by pandemic restrictions. Restaurants will still be required to close at 1o p.m.

Jan 30, 2021 - World

Science helps New Zealand avoid another coronavirus lockdown

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern (L) visits a lab at Auckland University in December. Photo: Phil Walter/Getty Images

New Zealand has avoided locking down for a second time over COVID-19 community cases because of a swift, science-led response.

Why it matters: The Health Ministry said in an email to Axios Friday there's "no evidence of community transmission" despite three people testing positive after leaving managed hotel isolation. That means Kiwis can continue to visit bars, restaurants and events as much of the world remains on lockdown.

Updated Oct 21, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Vaccines: Pfizer booster has 95.6% efficacy, large study shows — FDA authorizes mix-and-match for booster shots — J&J expects $2.5 billion of vaccine sales this year.
  2. Health: Cases and deaths keep falling — White House unveils plan to "quickly" vaccinate kids ages 5-11 — The global coronavirus vaccine gap — Gates Foundation to send $120 million of antiviral pills to lower-income countries.
  3. Politics: Reports: Brazil leader to be accused of crimes against humanity over COVID — Puerto Rico leads U.S. vaccination rates — Hawaii invites fully vaccinated travelers to return from Nov. 1.
  4. Education: Education secretary reveals limits to Biden’s mask push on states — LA extends deadline for school employee vaccinations — Parent sues Wisconsin school district after child tests positive.
  5. Variant tracker: Where different strains are spreading.