Coronavirus: Italy toughens mask rules and closes nightclubs after scientists warn cases are climbing
Ministers said an increase in cases in Italy and across Europe was behind the decision to impose stricter measures.
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Wearing a face covering is to become mandatory in public places in Italy overnight and nightclubs have been ordered to close due to a spike in coronavirus cases, according to reports.
Masks will need to be worn where social distancing is not possible between 6pm and 6am, while the closure of nightclubs and dance halls also applies to outdoor venues where people dance, such as beaches and common areas in hotels.
Economic support will be provided to all venues that have to close, Italy‘s government said.
The decisions were made during an urgent meeting of ministers and local officials on Sunday afternoon after 479 new infections and four deaths from COVID-19 were reported nationwide, Sky News Italia and Corriere della Sera said.
Several of the new cases over the past few weeks have reportedly been linked to nightclubs.
Ministers also said the increase in cases across Europe had influenced their decision to impose new restrictions.
As of Sunday, travellers arriving at Rome’s Fiumicino Airport from Croatia, Greece, Malta and Spain are now being tested for coronavirus as many of the cases are being brought into Italy from overseas.
Passengers can either get tested at the airport immediately or within 48 hours of arriving at local public health offices closer to their homes or destinations in Italy.
On Saturday, the daily caseload of new infections topped 600 for the first time since May.
Italy was the hardest hit European country earlier on in the pandemic but has managed to keep the number of cases and deaths down for the past two months.
Alessio D’Amato, health commissioner for Lazio, the region including Rome, said concern was mounting about the rising number of infections, especially as schools go back on 14 September for the first time since the pandemic began.
Managers of nightclubs are protesting the sudden restrictions, with Silb, the Italian dance club union, saying the closure of nightclubs puts “€4bn (£3.6bn) turnover at risk” and will only encourage illegal raves.
Pierpaolo Paradiso, manager of the Praja disco in Gallipoli, told Sky News Italia: “We have become the scapegoat for infections in Italy even though no infection has been reported in any disco.
“Our employees will not be able to reach the days necessary to have unemployment. Furthermore, I do not see the same total closure measures for bars, restaurants, and beaches.
“We only see darkness in front of us, I hope they remember having put a sector on the pavement.”
The new measures come as the first Mediterranean cruise to set off from Italy since the country entered lockdown departed from Genoa.
Passengers had their temperatures checked and took COVID-19 tests so they could set sail for their seven-night trip on the MSC Grandiosa.
The company said the crew spent time in quarantine before the start of the cruise, but declined to say how many passengers were onboard.
It said guests must wear face masks in lifts and other areas where social distancing is not possible, while wristbands would be worn to allow for contactless transactions as well as “contact and proximity tracing”.
Earlier this month, the Italian government gave its approval for cruise ships to once again depart from Italy’s ports, but with a maximum of 70% capacity.
Other European countries have also reported concerning spikes.
France reported 3,105 new cases in the 24 hours up to 6pm on Sunday and one death, while 263 clusters of cases are being investigated.
Travellers returning to the UK from France now have to self-isolate for two weeks after the British government took the country off its travel corridor list exempting quarantine from some countries.
Greece‘s government has ordered bars, restaurants and cafes in several regions to shut between midnight and 7am after the number of cases surged at the beginning of August.
The country had managed to keep cases relatively low, with 3,112 confirmed cases and 183 deaths in mid-June, but that has surged to 6,858 and 226 deaths as of Saturday.
Croatia has seen a spike in cases as 208 were recorded on Friday, the highest in the country since the pandemic started.
Malta has also been taken off the UK’s quarantine exemption list after the number of cases has continued to grow since 29 July, with 72 recorded on Saturday.
Spain has one of the highest amount of cases in Europe, with nearly 35,000 cases recorded in the past two weeks, including 7,550 on Friday.