Two-Thirds of Italians Set For Lockdown as Pandemic Worsens


The government of Prime Minister Mario Draghi is weighing stringent new restrictions on as many as two-thirds of Italians, with the regions encompassing the country’s largest cities possibly heading into lockdown amid a resurgence in the pandemic.

Draghi’s cabinet is scheduled to meet at 11:30 a.m. on Friday to decide whether to automatically designate regions as high-risk “red zones” if they have more than 250 weekly cases per 100,000 inhabitants, according to officials who asked not to be named discussing confidential deliberations.

A new decree would likely go into effect starting Monday and could effectively send many regions, including those surrounding Milan and Rome, into full lockdown. The restrictions are expected to remain in force until April 6, covering the Easter holidays.

Combined with restrictions already in place, the new measures could mean that as many as 14 of Italy’s 20 regions will be under the strictest level of controls. Bars and restaurants in these areas will be closed, as will schools and many stores. Citizens will be mostly confined to their homes.

Health Minister Roberto Speranza, at a meeting with regional chiefs on Friday morning, urged for all of Italy to be a “red zone” over the Easter holidays, from April 3-5, except for the few areas at the least risk of contagion, newswire Ansa reported.

Vaccine Campaign

With daily infections reaching a three-month high, Draghi, the former head of the European Central Bank, is seeking to speed up a slack vaccination campaign to counter the pandemic and restart an economy that shrank 8.9% last year. The country registered 25,673 new cases Thursday, compared to 22,409 the previous day.

The premier has faced objections from two parties in his coalition, the anti-migrant League led by Matteo Salvini and Silvio Berlusconi’s center-right Forza Italia, which had pushed to reopen businesses in at least some areas.

Draghi on Friday at 3 p.m. will visit a vaccination center at Fiumicino airport outside Rome, where he is due to give a speech on containment efforts. The administration is targeting inoculations by summer for all Italians who want them. So far, 6.1 million vaccine doses have been administered, with only 3% of the population fully vaccinated.

The government is also working on plans to allocate about 10 billion euros ($12 billion) to extend support for the labor market, part of a broader 32 billion-euro package. The funds would be used to extend a ban on redundancies in the services sector until the end of the year and to finance other measures including furloughs.