Italian Health Minister Roberto Speranza signed a new ordinance on Friday evening making the regions of Friuli Venezia Giulia and Veneto orange zones.
The Campania region, which includes Naples, will be classified as a red zone, joining the regions of Basilicata and Molise in the highest-risk level.
The changes will come into effect on Monday March 8th.
The ordinance also extended the current orange zone classification in Emilia Romagna. However, local authorities have declared red zones in the provinces of Bologna and Modena.
Meanwhile, the region of Lombardy declared itself a ‘reinforced orange’ zone from Friday.
The health ministry noted that its regional rules are in force alongside any further restrictions announced by local authorities in each town, province or region.
In red and orange areas, restaurants and bars are closed except for take-away and delivery.
In orange zones shops are open, although malls are shut on public holidays.
In red zones, schools and hairdressers will also close under new rules announced in Italy’s latest emergency decree this week.
Sardinia remains the sole low-risk “white” region.
The regional classifications are reviewed weekly based on the latest health ministry data.
The new clampdown came after this week’s report from the ISS health institute said the R number — which measures the rate at which the virus is spreading — had risen above one, to 1.06, for the first time in seven weeks.
The so-called British variant of the coronavirus has become “overwhelmingly dominant” in Italy, ISS President Silvio Brusaferro said.
But the other variants, the so-called Brazilian, South African and others are also worrying, he added.
Infection rates have been rising sharply in Italy recently, with many outbreaks attributed to the spread of new, more contagious variants of the virus
On Thursday the GIMBE health think tank warned that Italy had entered the third wave of the coronavirus, as it reported a sharp increase in infection numbers.
In the February 24-March 2 period coronavirus cases rose by a third from the previous week to more than 123,000, the highest figure since early December, GIMBE said.