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HEALTH

Italy’s bars and restaurants to shut at 6pm as new restrictions come into force

Bars, restaurants, cafes, gelaterias and other eateries will have to shut at 6pm across the country as of Monday evening under new restrictions aimed at stopping the spread of coronavirus.

Italy's bars and restaurants to shut at 6pm as new restrictions come into force
Customers have their last drink at a closing bar at Campo de' Fiori square in Rome. Photo: AFP
The Italian government announced the new decree on Sunday, which tightened a previous requirement for these businesses to close at 9pm if they were unable to offer table service.
 
Bars and restaurants had already been closed from 6pm in several regions, including Lazio, Campania, and Lombardy, where local officials had in recent days imposed evening curfews in a bid to prevent crowds and to stop the infection being spread while people are out socialising.
 
Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said the national measures were aimed at protecting  public health and averting the need for another national lockdown, which he stressed Italy “can no longer afford”.
 
Conte told Italy he hoped the unpopular new restrictions, which deal a severe blow to sectors already on their knees after a national lockdown this
spring, “will allow us to be more relaxed by Christmas”, though he warned “hugging and partying” would still be out of the question.
 
While eateries must close to the public from 6pm, takeaway service is stll allowed as long as customers do not eat at or outside the premises.
 
Food delivery is still allowed.
The government has also urged people to avoid unnecessary travel outside their home town or comune, and to avoid public transport wherever possible.
 
 
The new closures have raised concerns about the survival of businesses and damage to the economy.
 
 
“This is going to destroy us,” Augusto D'Alfonsi, who owns the Torricella family-run fish restaurant in Rome, told AFP as the restrictions were announced on Sunday. “We've already lost 50 percent of our customers this year. Without government aid, we're done for.”
 
Regional leaders had warned that closing businesses would exacerbate social tensions as the country struggles to emerge from its worst post-war recession,
sparked by the two-month shutdown earlier this year.
 
Giuseppe Spadafora, deputy president of business lobby Unimpresa, said the “anger could explode in the coming days and weeks.”
 
The government has promised financial aid for the businesses affected by the new restrictions, though critics say the emergency funding will be unfairly distributed.
 
“Compensation is ready for all those who will be penalized” by the new restrictions, Conte said on Sunday.
 
“New non-repayable contributions will include a tax credit for commercial rentals in October and November,” he said. “A redundancy fund is also confirmed, a new one-off monthly allowance for seasonal tourism and entetainment workers is offered, there is an additional monthly payment of emergency income, and measures to support agri-food businesses.”

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HEALTH

Q&A: What you need to know about Italy’s West Nile virus outbreak

As Italy records a surge in cases of West Nile fever, we look at what the disease is and where in the country it's spreading.

Q&A: What you need to know about Italy's West Nile virus outbreak

Mosquitos are unfortunately one downside of summer in Italy. But as well as being a nuisance, they may also pose a health risk in the country – one of the few in Europe to record cases of West Nile virus (WNV)

READ ALSO: Cases of West Nile fever surge in northern Italy

Last week Italy recorded 50 more cases of the mosquito-borne virus, bringing the total number of infections to 144 according to the latest report from Italy’s Higher Health Institute (ISS).

This marked a 53-percent increase in cases against the previous week, while ten people have died so far.

As the number of infections continues to rise, here are the answers to the most pressing questions about the disease and the outbreak in Italy.

What is it?

The West Nile Virus (WNV) is a single-stranded RNA virus that can cause West Nile fever in humans.

It’s a member of the Flavivirus family together with other endemic viruses such as the Zika and Dengue viruses.

The virus was first identified in 1937 in Uganda’s West Nile district but has since spread to many other parts of the world, to the point that it is now considered indigenous to Africa, the Middle East, Asia and Australia. 

Carried by birds, West Nile virus is transmitted to humans by mosquitoes.

The West Nile virus is primarily transmitted by mosquitoes of the Culex species, which infect humans and other mammals through their bite, according to Italy’s health ministry.

There is no evidence that human-to-human transmission is possible.

Where are cases being reported in Italy?

Infections have been largely concentrated in the north of the country, especially in the Veneto region, where six people have now died of the disease. Other deaths were recorded in Lombardy, Piedmont and Emilia-Romagna.

The city of Padua, which is located in Veneto’s mainland, around 35 kilometres away from the Adriatic coast, is currently regarded as the hotspot of the virus. 

It isn’t yet clear why Veneto has been the worst-hit region so far, but experts fear that its marshy lowlands might be the perfect breeding ground for disease-carrying mosquitoes. 

A mosquito of the Culex species viewed under a microscope.

Mosquitoes of the Culex species, a specimen of which is pictured above, are responsible for transmitting the West Nile Virus to humans and other mammals. Photo by Jon CHERRY Getty Images / AFP

How severe is the outbreak in Italy?

West Nile virus is not new to Italy. However, this summer has brought the highest number of cases recorded yet.

National infection levels remain relatively low but the country has by far the largest number of cases in Europe.

According to the most recent report from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), dated August 3rd, 94 out of 120 recorded cases were in Italy.

Greece had 23 reported cases. Romania and Slovakia had two and one respectively. 

Italy is the only European country that has reported fatalities.

What are the symptoms?

According to the Italian Higher Health Institute (ISS), around 80 percent of infected people show no symptoms whatsoever.

In symptomatic cases, however, symptoms generally resemble those of a common flu and include fever, headaches, nausea and diarrhoea. 

The infection is usually only dangerous for people with weakened immune systems such as the elderly, and the most severe symptoms occur in fewer than one percent of infected people.

In healthy people, the virus is unlikely to cause more than a headache or sore throat, and symptoms generally last only a few days.

According to the data currently available, around one in 150 infected people can show symptoms as serious as partial vision loss, convulsions and paralysis. 

In very rare cases (around 0.1 percent, or one in 1000) the disease can cause brain infections (encephalitis or meningitis) which may eventually be fatal.

Brazilian biologists handle mosquito larvae.

There is currently no vaccine against West Nile disease, though several are being tested. Photo by Apu GOMES / AFP

Is there a cure?

There is no vaccine against West Nile fever. “Currently vaccines are being studied, but for the moment prevention consists mainly in reducing exposure to mosquito bites,” the ISS states.

There is also no specific treatment for the disease caused by the virus.

Patients showing the more serious symptoms are usually admitted to hospital and treated with IV fluids and assisted ventilation.

What should you do to protect yourself?

Seeing as there is currently no vaccine against the virus, the best way to protect oneself is by reducing exposure to mosquitoes as much as possible.

Italian health authorities have listed a number of official recommendations to help residents avoid mosquito bites. These include: 

  • Use repellent
  • Wear long-sleeved shirts and long trousers when being outdoors and especially during ​​mosquitoes’ peak activity times, i.e. sunrise and sunset
  • Use mosquito nets on your windows or sleep in rooms with air-conditioning and keep the windows closed
  • Make sure there are no pools of stagnant water around your house

See more information about West Nile virus in Italy on the health ministry’s website.

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