Italy has introduced the strongest virus restrictions since a nationwide lockdown ended in May, and Spain will impose new measures, including a curfew, as cases rise in both countries to the epicenter of the initial wave of the pandemic in Europe.
In Italy, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte approved a plan to limit the opening hours of bars and restaurants, and to close entertainment, game rooms and gyms. Italians will also be asked not to travel. The measures will begin Monday and will remain in effect until November 24.
“We need to handle the pandemic without being overwhelmed,” Conte said at a press conference in Rome on Sunday. “If we play by the rules this month, we’ll keep the curve in check and face December and the holiday season with more peace of mind.”
The office of Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez approved the state of emergency on Sunday and announced a national curfew from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m., except in theCanary Islands, where the infection rate is low. Regional governments have leeway to slightly change the timing of the curfew, Sanchez said.
Italy and Spain had succeeded in curbing the initial outbreak with some of the strictest national lockdowns in the world. Relaxing these measures ahead of the summer travel season has contributed to a new wave of cases that threaten to overwhelm countries’ health systems if left unchecked. More than 70,000 people lost their lives to the virus in both countries, more than a third of all deathsregistered in Europe, excluding Russia.
Sanchez also delegated power to local authorities to restrict travel in their areas. Spain has a highly decentralized political system and regional administrations control many policies.
The prime minister said he would ask the Spanish parliament to approve an extension of the state of emergency until May 9. Lawmakers are expected to vote as early as this week. An extension until May would allow Sanchez to avoid repeatedly seeking approval for the restrictions, as he was legally obliged to do during Spain’s lockdown earlier this year.
“Why six months? Because this is the time that the experts expect us to need not only to go beyond this second wave, in which we are immersed, but also to go beyond the most stage. harmful of the pandemic, ”Sanchez said in a nationally televised speech.
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For his part, Conte had repeatedly ruled out a new national lockdown in Italy, but he lacks options as the less restrictive measures failed to cushion the latest spread. New infections hit a record 19,644 on Saturday and there are now more than 1,100 people being treated in intensive care units for the virus. The growth rate of the virus, or R factor, is 1.5, the premier said.
Sanchez last week reported that infections in Spain could be much more widespread than official data shows. More than 3 million people in Spain have caught the virus, he said on Friday, a figure three times higher than official figures.
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Conte has promised that new support measures to limit the economic impact of the restrictions will arrive by Tuesday. The government will extend holidays and send aid money directly to affected workers without increasing the budget deficit, he said.
– With the help of Chiara Albanese, Alessandro Speciale and Flavia Rotondi
(Updates with details of the Spanish measures in the fourth to seventh paragraphs)