The Italian government has approved regulations that could result in half of the country, including Lazio, the region surrounding Rome, entering total lockdown from Monday as coronavirus infections surge.
The cabinet of the prime minister, Mario Draghi, has given the green light to a decree that will categorise regions as being in high-risk “red zones” if they have more than 250 weekly cases per 100,000 residents.
Italy registered 25,673 new infections on Thursday and 373 Covid-19 deaths, bringing the total death count to 101,184.
The regions facing complete lockdown from Monday include Lombardy, Lazio, Emilia-Romagna, Friuli Venezia Giulia, Veneto, Piedmont, Marche and the province of Trento.
Campania and Bolzano province were already in the red zone and will stay there, while Abruzzo, Calabria, Liguria, Molise, Puglia, Sicily, Umbria and the Aosta Valley will be in the slightly less stringent orange zone. Sardinia was earlier this month classified in the lowest-risk white zone and will stay there.
The restrictions will remain in place until Easter weekend, during which the whole country, apart from Sardinia, will be classified as a red zone.
More than 100,000 people with coronavirus have died in Italy since the pandemic swept the country a year ago, prompting a months-long lockdown and the worst recession since the second world war.
Draghi’s new national unity government tightened restrictions for red zones earlier this month to include not only the closure of bars, restaurants, shops and high schools but also primary schools. Residents have been told to stay home where possible.
Italy began its coronavirus vaccination campaign in late December but, as elsewhere in Europe, it has been dogged by delays in deliveries of the jabs.
Concerns over reported side-effects of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine prompted Italy’s medicines regulator on Thursday to suspend a batch of doses, even while it warned there was no evidence of a link with blood clots.