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Italy eyes new COVID-19 curbs as Christmas crowds raise alarm

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Italy is considering new nationwide COVID-19 curbs during the Christmas holidays, health minister Roberto Speranza said on Monday, after big gatherings raised concerns of a new spike in infections.

On Saturday, the country passed Britain as the European nation with the worst official COVID death toll, with more than 65,000 deaths since February.

“We hope very soon to take new measures to prevent a third wave. We must avoid crowds, it is legitimate for people to shop around but when a person sees that there are a lot of people, he or she should avoid those places”, Speranza said.

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“Further, new restrictions are now needed … we must avert at all costs a third wave, because this would be devastating, also from the point of view of the loss of lives”, prime minister Giuseppe Conte told the media.

The government relaxed some restrictions put in place last month, but later authorities were forced to close off popular sites due to large crowds. Movement between the country’s 20 regions will be banned from December 21 to January 6, ski resorts will be closed during the same period and the traditional Christmas midnight mass is prohibited due to a 10 pm curfew.

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Conte added that a vaccination campaign would have to target some 10 million to 15 million people in order to “have an effective impact on immunity”, and that such a goal would be reached by the end of the spring or before the summer at the latest.

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