Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte imposed a series of new curbs on nightlife, social events and amateur sports as the coronavirus pandemic intensifies throughout the country, albeit at a slower pace than in other major European nations.
Conte signed a decree that focuses especially on bars and restaurants, as the government seeks to avert a new national lockdown that the economy, ravaged by one of the strictest and longest in the continent earlier this year, could ill afford.
The measures include closing bars and restaurants by midnight and banning people from gathering outside them from 9 p.m., according to the decree seen by Bloomberg News. Bars with no table service must also close by 9 p.m.
The curbs come amid concern that groups of young revelers are responsible for spreading contagion, as the average age of the infected has dropped. The initial European epicenter of the pandemic, Italy has seen new virus cases spike in recent weeks as the administration seeks to restart an economy that the government forecasts will contract by 9% this year.
New infections numbered 4,619 on Monday, compared with 5,456 the day before, as daily tests dropped over the weekend. Pressure on hospitals is growing but patients in intensive care units are still about a tenth of the peak of more than 4,000 in early April.
Receptions for events such as weddings and baptisms will be limited to a maximum of 30 people. Despite pressure by Health Minister Roberto Speranza, who told Rai television Sunday that 75% of infections occur between family members and friends, the decree stopped short of banning private parties. Instead it recommends a maximum of six people from different households taking part.
At the urging of government medical advisers, amateur sports including five-a-side soccer and basketball are banned. The decree recommends businesses resort more to remote working.
People who test positive for the virus will see their quarantine time cut to 10 days from 14. One negative test result after that period — as opposed to the current two or three for symptomatic patients — will suffice to allow a patient to exit quarantine. Earlier this month, the government again made wearing face masks outdoors compulsory.