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Saturday, 16 January 2021

Italy PM resists pressure to impose national lockdown

Reports had suggested Conte would push for a nationwide 9:00 pm curfew during a speech in parliament, but he said such measures would need to be discussed further.

AFP , Monday 2 Nov 2020
Conte
Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte briefs the Lower Chamber on the COVID-19 situation and on new measures being taken to curb the spread of the pandemic. AP.
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Italy's prime minister Giuseppe Conte resisted pressure to impose a new economically-damaging national lockdown on Monday despite spiking virus cases, instead proposing a regional approach that would target the hardest-hit areas.

Reports had suggested Conte would push for a nationwide 9:00 pm curfew during a speech in parliament, but he said such measures would need to be discussed further.

He has faced severe pressure from all sides of the debate -- health experts insisting a lockdown was needed, regional leaders saying they would resist stricter measures and business owners demanding better compensation for the closure of their businesses.

Italian cities have also been hit by a wave of protests -- some turning violent -- as general frustration grows.

"For the entire national territory, we intend to intervene only with a few specific measures that will help to strengthen the containment and mitigation of the contagion," said Conte, calling for the nation to "remain united in this dramatic moment".

Among the measures announced on Monday was a reduction of capacity on public transport by 50 percent, the closure of shopping centres on weekends, complete closure of museums and moving all high schools to distance-learning.

Conte also proposed an alert system that would divide the country into three tiers of risk, with the highest risk areas subject to travel restrictions and other measures.

But the measures fell well short of what had been expected -- and what has been introduced in France, the UK and Spain, for example.

Last month, the government sharpened its measures by imposing curfews in some regions and ordering bars and restaurants across the country to close at 6:00 pm.

But infection rates have continued to soar to record levels -- now approaching 30,000 cases a day, higher than the UK but still lower than France.

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