UPDATE: Italy set to announce strict lockdown over Christmas and New Year

Italy is set to be effectively placed under a nationwide lockdown over much of the Christmas and New Year period, under new measures expected to be announced on Friday.

UPDATE: Italy set to announce strict lockdown over Christmas and New Year
A cyclist rides past Rome's Christmas tree in Piazza Venezia. Photo: Tiziana Fabi/AFP

After days of drawn-out discussions, Italy's government has on Thursday reportedly reached an agreement on further coronavirus restrictions to be enforced over the Christmas holidays.

However, details are yet to be decided, and an official announcement is now not expected until Friday evening at the earliest.

Ministers on Thursday said strict measures are on the way – though the exact dates and details of the planned shutdown are yet to be agreed.

“We will all have to spend Christmas at home,” Francesco Boccia, Minister for Regional Affairs, told Italian news channel Sky TG24 on Thursday afternoon.

“We must make choices to protect the most vulnerable and the elderly, at the cost of bordering on unpopularity,” he said.

“It is evident that we are moving towards restrictions during the holiday period, if anyone thinks there will be parties, dinners, gatherings, they are very wrong”.

Italian newspapers on Thursday report that the government plans to announce red zone restrictions across the country for eight days in total – from December 24th – 27th, and December 31st – January 3rd.

This means that on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, Boxing Day, New Year’s Eve, New Year’s Day, and the weekend immediately after, the highest-level restrictions would apply across the whole country.

On the days in between, it is not yet clear whether orange or yellow zone restrictions may apply.

Confirmation and further details should come in an official announcement from Italian prime minister Giuseppe Conte, which had been expected on Wednesday, and then on Thursday.

The announcement will now come “between Friday and Saturday,” Boccia said.

“The system of red, orange and yellow zones will continue in January and February,” he added.

“But for the period from Christmas Eve to Epiphany, whether until the 3rd or 6th of January, the more restrictions there are, the better.”

People would be allowed to leave their homes for essential reasons only, such as work, medical appointments, or buying essentials.Red zone restrictions, the strictest possible in Italy, include ordering all non-essential shops to close as well as restaurants and bars, and forbidding travel within as well as to and from regions.

It is not yet known whether some allowances will be made over Christmas in order to allow limited visits to family living nearby.

Declaring a red zone across Italy effectively amounts to a national lockdown, similar to that announced in March.

In addition, Italy has already announced stricter limits on international and domestic travel from December 21st to January 6th.

During that period, crossing between Italian regions is only allowed in emergencies and everyone arriving from overseas is subject to 14 days of quarantine.

The further measures will be in addition to those already announced on December 3rd, amid fears of a third wave of infections being triggered over the holidays.

Government ministers and health experts said stricter rules were needed as the contagion rate, while slowing, is still too high.

Follow all of The Local's latest updates on the coronavirus situation in Italy here.


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Which are Italy’s best hospitals and where are they?

Italy’s healthcare system is said to be among the best in the world, but stark regional differences persist. Here’s where you’ll find the country’s most highly-rated hospitals.

Which are Italy’s best hospitals and where are they?

The average standard of healthcare in Italy is fairly high: the country has been ranked among the nations with the best healthcare systems in the world in surveys published by the World Health Organisation, Bloomberg and Statista.

But not all of Italy’s hospitals – or regional healthcare systems – are rated equally. A new World’s Best Hospitals ranking from Newsweek and global data firm Statista has revealed which of Italy’s hospitals are seen as the best.

The study ranked Rome’s Policlinico Gemelli as the best hospital in the country for the third year in a row, followed by Ospedale Niguarda and Ospedale San Raffaele in Milan.

The top five was completed by Policlinico Sant’Orsola in Bologna and the Istituto Humanitas in Rozzano, just south of Milan.

Spots from six to ten are occupied by: Policlinico San Matteo in Pavia, Azienda Ospedaliera in Padua, Ospedale Borgo Trento in Verona, Ospedale Papa Giovanni II in Bergamo and Turin’s Presidio Ospedaliero Molinette.

READ ALSO: Five essential facts about Italy’s public healthcare system

But aside from Rome’s Policlinico Gemelli, no hospital from the centre or south of the country figured in the top ten, with the first ‘non-northern’ hospital – Florence’s Ospedale Careggi – ranking 13th.

In fact, only three southern hospitals made it into the nation’s top 50, with the first one – Casa Sollievo della Sofferenza in San Giovanni Rotondo, Puglia – coming in 33rd.

These results seem to once again confirm the stark imbalances in the quality of medical services offered across the country, with central and southern regions continuing to perform poorly compared to their northern counterparts. 

You can read more about the issue and its causes HERE

Shifting from a national outlook to an international one, Italian hospitals didn’t fare quite as well as could be hoped.

The top five Italian hospitals all figured among the best 100 hospitals in the world, though only Rome’s Policlinico Gemelli made it into the top 50 (it came in 38th, to be exact).

However, Italy still had a total of 13 hospitals included in the world’s top 250 list, which made it the third most-represented European country in the ranking after Germany (25) and France (16).

Statista assessed the performance of over 2,300 hospitals around the world, basing its ranking upon a combination of the following four data sources: the opinion of over 80,000 healthcare professionals, patient experience surveys following hospitalisation, publicly available hospital quality metrics, and patient perception questionnaires.