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.
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.