‘A new surge is coming’: PM Conte warns Italy as ministers review coronavirus rules

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte warned on Monday that Italy will suffer another “surge” in coronavirus cases, as the government discussed emergency measures from January 16th.

'A new surge is coming': PM Conte warns Italy as ministers review coronavirus rules
Staff treat Covid-19 patients at the Intensive Care Unit at Rome's Tor Vergata Hospital. Photo: AFP

“After Great Britain, Ireland and Germany, a new surge (in coronavirus infections) is also coming to us,” Conte told reporters from Italian news channel Tg3 on the sidelines of a meeting to discuss new restrictions with regional heads on Monday.

“It will not be easy, we still have to make some sacrifices,” Conte said.

READ ALSO: Italy goes back under regional coronavirus tier system 

The warning came after the latest health data released on Friday showed the Rt number (reproduction rate) has risen above 1 for the first time in six weeks.

“Without the restrictive measures introduced over the Christmas holidays, we would have other numbers,” Health Minister Roberto Speranza said on Monday, according to the Ansa news agency.

Regional leaders met with government ministers to discuss upcoming changes to the emergency measures under the next emergency decree, due to be announced by January 15th.

Parliament is set to debate the new measures on Tuesday, and the decree text will be ready by “Thursday or Friday,” Speranza reportedly said, adding: “The epidemiological situation is not to be underestimated. The epidemic is still very strong, and for this reason we still need restrictions and correct behaviour.”

The governor of Liguria, Giovanni Toti, said after the talks that the government plans to introduce a ban on the sale of take-away food and drinks after 6pm.

Under existing rules, bars and restaurants even in the lower-risk ‘yellow’ zones must close at 6pm. Takeaway is then allowed until 10pm, though current rules state that customers must not eat at the premises.

MAP: Which zone is your region in under Italy's coronavirus tier system?

Other measures being considered include a ban on non-essential travel between all regions, and the addition of a ‘white zone’ to Italy’s tiered system of restrictions, Toti said.

“A white zone, which we proposed over a month ago, is a zone where, virus permitting, a slow return to normality can begin,” he said, after protesting about the  impact he says new restrictions would have on businesses.

Minister of Regional Affairs Francesco Boccia reportedly told the meeting that all businesses affected by continued closures “will be compensated.”

For more information on the coronavirus restrictions please see the Italian Health Ministry's website (in English).

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Italian monkeypox cases rise to ten

Monkeypox infections have now been confirmed in four Italian regions, Italian health authorities said on Thursday.

Italian monkeypox cases rise to ten

The total number of Italian monkeypox cases rose to ten on Thursday with the discovery of the first case in the Emilia-Romagna region.

There have now been five cases detected the Lazio region, which are being treated in Rome, plus three in Lombardy, and one each in Tuscany and Emilia-Romagna.

READ ALSO: How is Italy dealing with rising monkeypox cases?

“There is no alarm, but the infection surveillance system is at a state of maximum attention,” Lazio’s regional health councillor Alessio D’Amato told the Ansa news agency after the seventh case was reported on Wednesday.

Researchers at Rome’s Spallanzani hospital for infectious diseases said the new cases are thought to be “part of a pan-European cluster” linked to cases in the Canary Islands, Ansa reported.

The first Italian case of monkey smallpox, or monkeypox, was also found in a man who had recently returned from the Canary Islands, doctors said last Thursday.

On Thursday morning the Italian health ministry published guidance on dealing with outbreaks of monkeypox as case numbers continued to rise across Europe.

More than 250 monkeypox cases have now been reported in at least 16 countries where the virus isn’t endemic, according to the World Health Organization.

They are mostly in Spain, the UK and Portugal, with single-digit cases in Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Denmark, the Netherlands, Sweden, and Switzerland, as well as Italy.

READ ALSO: What is Spain doing to deal with rising monkeypox cases?

The illness has infected thousands of people in parts of Central and Western Africa in recent years, but is rare in Europe and North Africa.

Monkeypox is known to spread via close contact with an animal or human with the virus. It can be transmitted via bodily fluids, lesions, respiratory droplets or through contaminated materials, such as bedding.

Its symptoms are similar but somewhat milder than those of smallpox: fever, headache, muscle aches, back pain, chills, exhaustion, although it also causes the lymph nodes to swell up.

Within one to three days, the patient develops a rash, often beginning on the face then spreading to other parts of the body. 

Although most monkeypox cases aren’t serious, studies have shown that one in ten people who contract the disease in Africa die from it.

The unprecedented outbreak of the monkeypox virus has put the international community on alert.

On Monday, the European Union urged member states to take steps to ensure positive cases, close contacts, and even pets be quarantined as this is a zoonotic virus (a virus that spreads from animals to humans).