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Health workers prepare vaccine doses in Iseo, Italy. Photo: Stefano Nicoli/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Italy on Saturday announced it was tightening restrictions in five of the country's 20 regions in an effort curb the spread of the coronavirus.

Driving the news: The announcement comes as health experts and scientists warn of the more transmissible coronavirus variants, per Reuters.

The state of play: For the first time since late January, two regions — Basilicata and Molise — have been placed in the country's red-zone, the strictest tier of Italy's color-coded system.

  • All bars, restaurants and non-essential businesses must close and movement will be severely limited.
  • The tiers (white, yellow, orange and red) are based on infection levels and other factors.
  • In Lombardy, Marche and Piedmont, which were moved from the yellow to the orange zone, restaurants and bars must close except for carry-out. Residents are also not allowed to leave their towns except for emergencies or health and work reasons.
  • Yes, but: The island of Sardinia became the first region to move to the minimally restrictive white zone, according to Reuters.

What they're saying: “Many outbreaks are due to the (new) variants. I am concerned about the progress of the epidemic," said Gianni Rezza, a senior health ministry adviser, per Reuters.

  • "We must keep up our guard and we must intervene promptly and strongly where needed,” Rezza added.

The big picture: Earlier this week, the country extended a ban on non-essential travel between the regions through at least March 27, per Reuters.

  • Italy began its inoculation campaign last year, and has so far administered more than 4.2 million doses of the vaccine. More than 1.3 million people have been fully vaccinated.
  • According to health ministry data, the country recorded 20,499 new COVID-19 cases on Friday, up from 19,886 the day before.
  • More than 2.9 million cases and 97,500 deaths have been reported in Italy since the pandemic began.

Go deeper

Updated Nov 26, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Vaccines: U.S. to mandate vaccines for anyone who crosses borders starting in January — Shots lagged data by months — The next big bottleneck in the global vaccination effort.
  2. Health: The Thanksgiving bouncers — Axios-Ipsos poll: Thanksgiving roulette — Experts criticize CDC's language on vaccine boosters — America's Thanksgiving gamble.
  3. Politics: Biden administration asks appeals court to reinstate vaccine mandate — Michigan recommends face masks for all residents amid surge.
  4. Education: A COVID strategy backfires at schools — Schools across the U.S. offer vaccine drivesBenefits of in-person school outweigh risks, study finds.
  5. World: EU drug regulator recommends Pfizer COVID vaccine for kids — Italy announces new COVID restrictions for unvaccinated people — European health agency urges expanding booster shot access.
  6. Variant tracker: Where different strains are spreading.

Murkowski slams comparisons of mask mandates to Nazism in Alaska

Photo: Kevin Dietsch via Getty Images

Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R) voiced alarm and frustration about the surge of COVID cases in her state on Friday, decrying comparisons of mask mandates to Nazism.

Why it matters: Alaska's number of weekly cases has steadily increased in recent months, jumping 10% from just last week, according to state health data. Meanwhile, anti-vaxxers continue to protest mask and vaccine mandates in increasingly hostile situations.

Oct 1, 2021 - Health

Louisiana health system to charge employees with unvaccinated partners

Photo: Eva Marie Uzcategui/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The largest health care system in Louisiana will charge its employees $200 a month if a spouse or domestic partner covered under its health plan is not vaccinated against the coronavirus, NOLA reports.

Why it matters: The new rule, which will take effect in 2022, comes as the vast majority of coronavirus patients who end up hospitalized are unvaccinated.