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People's Daily Online

Italy enters red zone over holidays amid COVID-19 spike

People's Daily Online

(Xinhua) 10:57, December 25, 2020

ROME, Dec. 24 (Xinhua) -- Italy on Thursday entered a nationwide red zone of very high risks forced by a spike in COVID-19, which is set to remain in place through Christmas and New Year's Day to Jan. 6.

Red zone rules include a ban on travel between regions, a 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew, closure of shops, bars and restaurants, as well as an urge for keeping holiday gatherings at home to a minimum of two adult visitors.

To contain the second wave of COVID-19, the government has categorized Italy as three color-coded areas, namely yellow, orange and red, with different levels of restrictions corresponding to the severity of virus transmission.

Areas with uncontrolled transmission that stretches the national health system beyond capacity are defined red, with the toughest anti-virus limits in place, said the Ministry of Health. Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte on Dec. 18 announced the designation of the entire country as a red zone over the holidays to stem the virus spread.

Infections as of Thursday stood at 593,632 in this country with a population of about 60 million, the ministry said, adding that 505 patients succumbed to COVID-19 on Thursday, pushing the overall fatalities up to 70,395 since the pandemic started.

Among the positive cases, 566,973 with light or no symptoms were quarantined at home, 24,070 hospitalized with symptoms, and 2,589 in intensive care units.

"Overall, the incidence (of infections) in Italy remains very high and the impact of the epidemic continues to be significant in most of the country," the ministry said Thursday in a coronavirus monitoring report covering the week of Dec. 14-20.

"As well, in most of the regions there is a moderate to high risk of an uncontrolled, unmanageable epidemic," the ministry said. "This situation confirms the need to maintain a strict approach to the mitigation measures adopted during the Christmas holiday period."

Extraordinary Commissioner for the Coronavirus Emergency Domenico Arcuri confirmed Wednesday that Italy's vaccination drive is set to begin on Sunday with the arrival of an initial 9,750 doses of the Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine.

"Pfizer has assured us that starting on Dec. 28, it will supply us with another 470,000 doses, which will arrive in the 300 vaccination posts throughout Italy," Arcuri said.

The first batch to receive a vaccine will be "the 1.8 million Italians who are the most exposed to the risk of contagion ... due to the fact that they are in the front lines of this war, where so many have lost their lives: doctors, nurses, healthcare and hospital staff, and nursing home residents and staff," said the commissioner.

Everyone in Italy will get a chance for the vaccine, which will be free for everyone and mandatory for no one, Arcuri said, adding, "we will make sure no one gets left behind."

The European Medicines Agency approved the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine on Monday.

"This is the news we were waiting for," Health Minister Roberto Speranza said. "The battle against the virus is still very complex ... but having a safe and effective vaccine opens a new phase and gives us more strength and confidence."

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