Italy will extend the imposed state of emergency to contain the spread of the coronavirus until the end of April, as infections currently show no signs of abating, Health Minister Roberto Speranza said on Wednesday.
The state of emergency, first introduced in January 2020, was set to expire later this month. It empowers the central government, making it easier for officials to bypass the bureaucracy that stifles many decision-making in Italy.
“Last week, there was a general worsening of the epidemic, we are back to an expansionary phase,” Speranza told the lower house of parliament.
“With the worsening of the indicators … the government considers it appropriate to extend the state of emergency until April 30.”
Italy has recorded 79,819 COVID-19 deaths since the pandemic broke out last February, the second highest number of deaths in Europe and the sixth in the world. The country has reported 2.303 million cases of COVID-19 so far.
“A strong new storm is brewing in Europe. The virus will be contained with vaccines, but it will continue to circulate with increasing strength and could hit us again very strongly, ”said Speranza.
“The next few months are going to be very difficult and we should not think that we are out of danger,” he said, adding that 12 Italian regions are at high risk and eight at moderate risk.
After the Christmas holidays, Italy returned to a three-tier system that allows different measures to be applied to different regions according to the levels of infection.
The categories include high-risk or red areas, orange medium-risk districts and yellow low-risk districts.
At a cabinet meeting on Wednesday, ministers are expected to agree on new restrictions, including a ban on travel between Italy’s 20 regions and items to travel in cafes. Night curfews across the country will also be maintained.
Speranza said the government would introduce new “white zones”, where only 50 or fewer cases of COVID-19 per week are reported for every 100,000 people. He did not say which rules would apply in those zones.
Museums will be allowed to reopen in the low-risk yellow zones for the first time, added Speranza.