COVID-19: Italy set to impose national lockdown over Easter weekend

Italy is set to impose another national lockdown over the Easter weekend to combat growing numbers of coronavirus cases.

It will see non-essential shops closed from 3 April to 5 April, with people only allowed to leave their homes for work, health or emergency reasons, according to a draft government decree seen by Reuters news agency.

The decree is expected to be signed into law later today.

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The country – the first in the world to impose a national COVID lockdown just over a year ago – will also enforce tighter restrictions in low-risk areas from Monday.

Those measures – which form part of an existing four-tier colour-coded system – will see movement between towns in “yellow” regions limited and restaurants and bars shuttered.

The news comes just days after Italy surpassed 100,000 coronavirus deaths – the sixth country worldwide to do so after the US, Brazil, Mexico, India, and the UK.

Italy’s total virus cases surpassed three million last week, with a new surge powered by the highly contagious variant that was first identified in Britain towards the end of 2020.

At the beginning of March, the government ordered the closure of all schools in regions hardest hit by the virus.

The decision followed evidence that new cases among young people had overtaken those seen among the older population – a reversal of what was seen earlier in the pandemic.

Prime Minister Mario Draghi has said that the country will need to ramp up its vaccination campaign to help pull the country out of the crisis.

Like other European Union countries, Italy’s vaccination campaign has got off to a slow start, hit in part by delivery delays from drug manufacturers.

Its rollout will not be helped by the decision to ban jabs from one particular batch of one million AstraZeneca vaccines, which was sent to 17 countries, after reports of a death.

The drugs company has insisted that its vaccine – made with Oxford University – is safe, and has been backed by the European and UK regulators.

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