The leaders of Italian regions that are to enter partial lockdown on Friday have lambasted the government’s new tiered system, which has categorised some areas with the lowest rates of Covid-19 in the country as high-risk red zones.
The row, which is expected to provoke more protests against restrictions in the coming days, erupted as Greece became the latest European country to announce a return to lockdown. Germany and Poland both reported new daily case records.
The southern Italian region of Calabria – which registered 245 new infections on Wednesday – will join Lombardy, which has been worst-hit, Piedmont and Aosta Valley in partial lockdown. The restrictions mean people will be able to leave their homes only for work, health or emergency reasons. Bars, restaurants and non-essential shops apart from hairdressers will have to close.
Nino Spirlì, the acting president of Calabria, said the lockdown was unjustified and that he would appeal against its imposition. “This region does not deserve an isolation that will be fatal to it,” he said.
Neighbouring Campania currently has the second-highest daily caseload in the country but has been put in the lower-risk yellow zone, as has Lazio, the region surrounding Rome.
Puglia, also in the south, and Sicily are in the medium-risk orange zone, meaning bars and restaurants will have to close and people will be banned from moving beyond their towns or cities.
“The decision to relegate Sicily to the orange zone is absurd and unreasonable,” said Nello Musumeci, the island’s president. The leaders of Lombardy, Piedmont and Aosta Valley have also demanded to know exactly how the tier system was decided.
The restrictions, which will be in place until 3 December, are said to have been determined by the rate of Covid-19 transmission, the number of infections and people with symptoms and the availability of hospital beds.
Italy’s prime minister, Giuseppe Conte, said intensive care capacity would be at risk in 15 of Italy’s 20 regions within a few weeks unless new measures were enacted. Italy registered 30,550 new coronavirus cases on Wednesday and 352 fatalities.
Greece’s prime minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, said on Thursday that the resurgence of the virus required a three-week national lockdown that would begin at 6am on Saturday. The country recorded 2,646 new infections and 18 deaths on Wednesday, up sharply from last week. The virus has killed 673 people in Greece among almost 47,000 infected.
“It was a difficult decision … but measures must be taken for three weeks to overcome this second wave,” Mitsotakis told a videoconference on Thursday. Under the measures, Greeks can leave their homes only if they receive authorisation after making an official request by phone or SMS. Only essential shops, including supermarkets and pharmacies, will be open.
Unlike the previous six-week lockdown that began in late March, however, kindergartens and primary schools will remain open. Secondary school pupils will be taught remotely. University students are already doing online classes.
Germany’s national disease control centre, the Robert Koch Institute, said 19,990 infections had been confirmed over the past 24 hours, topping the previous record of 19,059 on Saturday. The country has now recorded 597,583 cases and 10,930 deaths. A four-week partial shutdown took effect on Monday. Bars, restaurants and leisure and sports facilities are closed and new contact restrictions have been imposed. Shops and schools remain open.
Poland reported 27,143 new cases on Thursday, well up on the 24,692 reported on Wednesday. The government is expected to announce new restrictions to try to contain the second wave of Covid-19.
In France, which is already in a month-long national lockdown intended to put “a brutal brake” on the virus, the mayor of Paris announced that some shops that sell takeaway alcohol and food will be forced to close at 10pm to prevent further contagion.
France’s public health agency said on Wednesday that there had been more than 40,500 new infections in 24 hours and 385 deaths in hospital. The overall French death toll stands at 38,674, and there are 4,089 people in intensive care. The country has 6,400 intensive care beds available nationwide.
The new lockdown allows people to leave home only to go to the office, if working-from-home is not possible; to go to the doctor; exercise outdoors; drop children off at school; or do essential shopping.
Spain, which is under curfew following the declaration of a state of emergency, reported a total of 38,118 deaths as of Wednesday after revising its methodology for recording infections and fatalities. It has logged 1,284,408 cases to date, the highest figure in western Europe.
Sweden’s prime minister, Stefan Löfven, has gone into self-isolation after a person in his “vicinity” met with someone who had been confirmed to have Covid-19. In neighbouring Denmark, which is also facing a resurgence in cases, the prime minister, Mette Frederiksen, is also in self-isolation after the justice minister tested positive.
In Ireland, however, the countermeasures appear to be paying off and the country now has one of Europe’s lowest incidence rates after two weeks of maximum tier restrictions. The R value, which indicates the number of people on average an infected person will infect, is now 0.7 and 0.9. To suppress the virus it must be below 1.
The cumulative 14-day incidence rate has fallen to 212.7 per 100,000 people, a 30% reduction. It gives Ireland the seventh lowest rate of 31 European countries, above Finland, Norway, Iceland, Estonia, Latvia and Greece. Authorities reported eight coronavirus-related deaths and 444 new cases on Wednesday, bringing the death toll since the pandemic began to 1,930. The total number of cases is 63,483.
Health officials attribute the improving numbers to moderate restrictions imposed on Dublin city and county on 18 September, followed by nationwide severe restrictions on 21 October. They are due to end on 2 December, by which time authorities hope daily case numbers will be between 50 and 100. There have been a handful of small, fleeting protests.