“More than a year after the start of the health emergency, we are unfortunately facing a new wave of infections,” he said in a speech made during a visit to a new vaccination centre at Rome’s Fiumicino airport.
The speech came as the government prepared to announce new curbs that will effectively send most of the country into lockdown from Monday.
Schools, restaurants, shops and museums are expected to close from Monday in the majority of regions, with all to be declared either ‘orange’ or ‘red’ high-risk zones – with the exception of the ‘white zone’ island of Sardinia.
Draghi’s office earlier on Friday confirmed that all of Italy would be in the highest risk “red zone” over Easter weekend, between April 3-5.
Draghi did not give further details of the new measures but said his cabinet had agreed to adopt “appropriate and proportionate” restrictions.
“In the last week there have been more than 150,000 infections, compared to 131,000 the previous week, an increase of almost 5,000 people in hospital and 600 in intensive care,” Draghi stated.
He said the figures – showing an almost 15 percent increase in infections over the past week – required the “utmost caution” to limit deaths and pressure on health services.
“The memory of what happened last spring is vivid, and we will do everything to prevent it from happening again,” he added.
More than 100,000 people with coronavirus have died in Italy since the pandemic began one year ago.
GIMBE president Nino Cartabellotta on Thursday warned of an increase in the number of new cases for three consecutive weeks, which “confirms the start of the third wave” of Covid-19.
He said that in more than half of Italy’s 20 regions, “hospitals and above all intensive care units are already overloaded”, with ordinary health services suspended.
On Friday, Draghi thanked Italians for their “infinite patience” and said the new measures would be accompanied by fresh support for families and businesses.
He acknowledged there would be “consequences for the education of children, for the economy and also for the psychological state of us all”.
Draghi pledged that the country would increase the pace of the vaccination programme, announcing a target of over 500,000 doses administered daily.
About 170,000 vaccines are currently being administered each day, he said, but “the target is to triple that soon”.
The government recently unveiled plans to increase the number to 200,000 per day by the end of March.
Italy began its coronavirus vaccination campaign in late December but, as elsewhere in Europe, it has been dogged by delays in deliveries of the jabs.
Draghi also warned pharma companies that he won’t hesitate to block exports again if they delay deliveries, following his government’s move last week to block the export of AstraZeneca vaccines to Australia.
“These weeks we have taken some strong decisions against companies which have delayed the deliveries and we will continue to do so”
Concerns over reported side effects of the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine prompted Italy’s health regulator on Thursday to suspend a batch of the jabs, even while saying there was no evidence of a suggested link with blood clots.
On Friday, Draghi said that whatever the outcome of a review by the EU’s medicines regulator, “I can assure you that the vaccination campaign will continue with renewed intensity”.