ITALY brings in sweeping new coronavirus measures

October 2020 BBC; New measures to combat a surge in coronavirus cases have come into force in Italy with gyms, swimming pools, cinemas and theatres closed.

Restaurants, bars and cafes must stop table service at 18:00 and offer only take-away until midnight. Contact sports are prohibited.

However, shops and most businesses will remain open.

The government has warned that the rise in cases was causing a huge strain on the country’s health services.

However, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said that a full lockdown would be catastrophic for the economy.

Italy was among the first European countries to be badly hit by the virus but a national lockdown in March flattened the curve. Since then, the number of daily cases has climbed steadily and Sunday saw a new record of more than 21,200 infections.

What other measures has Italy introduced?

The new restrictions, which are in force until 24 November, will also see 75% of classes at Italy’s high schools and universities conducted online instead of in a classroom.

Regional governments had asked for all classes to be conducted via distance learning, Italian media reported, but the move was opposed by Education Minister Lucia Azzolina.

The government is also urging people not to travel outside their home towns or cities unless absolutely necessary and to avoid using public transport if possible.

“We think that we will suffer a bit this month but by gritting our teeth with these restrictions, we’ll be able to breathe again in December,” Mr Conte told a news conference on Sunday.

The latest restrictions have triggered demonstrations in cities including Naples, Turin and Rome.

What’s happening elsewhere in Europe?

Gyms and pools have also closed in Belgium, and shops must shut at 20:00. Masks are now compulsory in public spaces.

Several hospitals in the country have requested that doctors and nurses who test positive for the virus continue to work anyway if they have no symptoms. The decision has been made by 10 hospitals based in Liège, one of the worst affected areas in Europe. A quarter of medical staff in Liège are reported to be off work with Covid-19.

The president of the Association of Medical Unions, Dr Philippe Devos, told the BBC that while he acknowledged the obvious risk of transferring the virus to patients, the hospitals have been left with no choice in order to avoid the hospital system collapsing within days.

In the UK, people aged 16 to 25 are more than twice as likely as older workers to have lost their job during the pandemic, BBC Panorama has found. Research seen by the programme also suggests the education gap between privileged and disadvantaged young people has widened further.

In France, health experts have warned that the number of new Covid-19 cases per day could be about 100,000 – twice the official figure.

Prof Jean-Francois Delfraissy, the head of France’s scientific council which advises the government on the pandemic, said the estimated figure included undiagnosed and asymptomatic cases.

He told RTL radio he was surprised by the “brutality” of the second wave which he expected to be much worse than the first, adding: “Many of our fellow citizens have not yet realised what awaits us.”

France has already imposed night-time curfews on major cities, including Paris. On Sunday, it reported another record 52,000 cases in a day. The country has recorded more than 1.1 million cases in total and 34,780 deaths.

Meanwhile, Spain has declared a national state of emergency and imposed a night-time curfew amid a new spike in Covid-19 infections.

Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez said the curfew, which came into force on Sunday night, would be in place between the hours of 23:00 and 06:00.

Under the measures, local authorities can also ban travel between regions. Spain has seen more than one million cases and 34,750 deaths.

In the Czech Republic, a new field hospital built by the army in just over seven days has been handed over to Prague’s main infectious diseases hospital. The country is experiencing a steep rise in infections and now has more than 258,000 confirmed cases and more than 2,000 deaths.

Russia has registered a record 17,347 new daily coronavirus cases, officials said on Monday. Total reported cases have surpassed 1.5 million – but the mayor of the worst-hit city, Moscow, said that while “there is still growth… it is slower”.

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