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Italian government ministers and regional heads are still trying to reach an agreement on Thursday on proposals for coronavirus measures over the festive season.
A new emergency decree – formally called a DPCM (Decreto del presidente del consiglio, or 'prime minister's decree') – containing rules covering the next month, including the Christmas period, is due by Friday, December 4th.
Government officials had been expected to announce the contents of the latest decree before Thursday December 3rd, when the current decree expires.
A draft text of the new DPCM has been circulated to regional governments on Thursday morning and will need to be debated, and very likely amended, before being signed.
The next DPCM will remain in place until after Epiphany on January 6th, ministers said on Wednesday, though no firm date has been announced yet.
The government has said that the 10pm curfew throughout Italy will remain in place, and that restaurants must stay closed in orange and red zones.
Ministers are set to announce whether non-essential shops will be allowed to reopen in red zones under the new decree, and whether restrictions will be placed on holiday resorts and international travel.
Ministers have repeatedly stressed that rules must remain in place amid fears that holiday celebrations could trigger a third wave of infections.
“With the next emergency decree we must continue with serious and rigorous measures,” said health minister Roberto Speranza in an address to parliament on Wednesday.
“We still need a few weeks of sacrifices,” he said. “The (contagion) wave is still high, and our navigation remains difficult. Let us not be under any illusions.”
He echoed the words of prime miister Giuseppe Conte, who said on Italian television last week: “It will be a different kind of Christmas, sacrifices are still necessary in order not to expose ourselves to a third wave in January with a high number of deaths”,
One thing we do already know for sure is that travel will be restricted over the Christmas period.
Ahead of the full set of measures, the government on Wednesday night separately approved a decree law prohibiting non-essential travel between regions from December 21st-January 6th.
The rules will be even stricter on Christmas Day itself, with a ban on travelling between towns and comunes in place on December 25-26th, and on New Year's Day, as the government seeks to avoid a third wave of coronavirus infections being triggered by socialising over the festive period.
This will include restrictions on visiting second homes, though returning to your home or place of residence will remain a valid reason for travel. See more details on the restrictions in a separate report here.
The government is also expected to introduce a 10-day quarantine for those arriving in Italy from foreign countries, beginning on December 20th.
Over the holidays shops will have to close at 9pm and shopping centres are to remain closed at weekends under rules laid out in the draft text of the new decree.
All non-essential shops are currently closed in Italy's red zones, and it's not yet clear whether they may be allowed to reopen.
“It will be necessary to avoid potential gatherings in places of tourist attraction linked in particular to skiing activities,” Health minister Roberto Speranza told parliament on Wednesday.
He added that international travel over the festive season “should be discouraged”.