Italy Heads Into One other Lockdown

Italians enjoyed the last weekend outdoors before three-quarters of the population went under a strict lockdown on Monday as the government put in place restrictive measures to combat the surge in coronavirus infections.

A more contagious variant, first identified in the UK, coupled with a slow vaccine rollout in Italy last week, led to a 15 percent increase in cases, a worrying picture for the government of Prime Minister Mario Draghi.

“I am aware that today’s actions will have an impact on children’s education, on the economy, but also on the mental state of all of us,” Draghi said on Friday. “But they are necessary to avoid deterioration, which inevitably requires even stricter measures.”

Most regions in northern Italy, as well as Lazio and Marche in central Italy and Campania and Puglia in the south, will close schools and forbid residents to leave their homes except for work, health or necessity. Among the business activities, only supermarkets, pharmacies and a few other shops will remain open, but restaurants will be closed.

In the rest of the country, residents are not allowed to leave their community without giving a reason Work, health, or other necessities, but schools and many businesses remain open.

“We believe that the only way to avoid such measures is widespread vaccination,” added Draghi.

So far, fewer than two million people in the country have been fully vaccinated, partly due to late deliveries from the pharmaceutical industry, but also due to logistical problems in some regions. Italy is one of the hardest hit countries in the world: More than 100,000 people have died there of Covid and 3.2 million have been infected.

Last Saturday, the government announced that it would vaccinate at least 80 percent of the population by September. Drafted by an Army General chosen by Mr Draghi for his expertise in logistics, the plan was to give up to 500,000 doses per day and also to hire junior doctors and dentists to do the injections in a variety of facilities such as Military barracks and production to administer locations, schools and gyms.

In a cabinet document, the government wrote that it expects its vaccination capacity to be increased in the coming months. Shipments are expected to increase from 15.7 million cans in the first quarter to 52.5 by June and to nearly 85 million in the third quarter. After weeks of canceling or limiting shipments, Pfizer-BioNTech should be increasing shipments in the near future, while AstraZeneca is still planning a slower roll-out of vaccines to Italy. However, the Piedmont region has suspended the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine, a precautionary measure, while research is ongoing into a possible link to health problems.

The whole country will be closed for the Easter weekend April 3-5 to prevent this from happening the usual large family gatherings. As in Due to Christmas restrictions, people are still allowed to leave their homes once a day.

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