Italy imposes new restrictions with closure of gyms, pools and cinemas

Cinemas, gyms and pools have been closed while bars, cafes and restaurants face an early curfew.

AT LEAST A month of new restrictions have been imposed across Italy to fight rising Covid-19 infections.

Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte has insisted people keep wearing masks outdoors, while cinemas, gyms, pools have been closed and an early curfew has been set for bars, cafes and restaurants.

The new decree goes into effect tomorrow and lasts until 24 November.

“Our aim is to protect health and the economy,” Conte said today.

Yesterday, Italy passed the half-million mark in the number of confirmed coronavirus cases since February.

Daily new caseloads have crept close to 20,000 in the last two days.

Restaurant and bar owners had lobbied hard against the new measures, which order them to close at 6pm daily.

Most restaurants in Italy usually do not even start to serve dinner before 8pm, meaning that the restriction seriously cuts into revenues.

Cafés and restaurants were allowed to reopen in recent months after the spring lockdown for outdoor dining or limited indoor seating.

Conte promised financial aid from his centre-left government as soon as November to the food sector and noted cafes and restaurants can do delivery and takeaway orders until midnight.

No more than four diners will be allowed per restaurant table before the curfew unless they are from the same family.

Under the new rules, ski slopes are off-limits to all but competitive skiers and all spectators are banned from stadiums during professional sports matches, including football.

Receptions after religious or civil ceremonies such as weddings are forbidden.

The decree continues to exempt children younger than six and those exercising outdoors from wearing masks.

“We all have to do small sacrifices,”  Conte said.

“If we can’t go to the gym, we can exercise outdoors.”

Conte kept elementary and middle schools open but said 75% of high school pupils must have remote classes.

Crowding on public transport, especially since schools reopened last month, has concerned health authorities.

By early summer, after Italy’s lockdown was all but lifted, new virus caseloads had dropped to as low as 200 a day.

“We did it then, we can do it now,” Conte said, warning that without any vaccine available it’s “not like we’ll all be able to hug each other” during the holidays.

Several Italian regions and cities recently slapped on overnight curfews to cut down on young people congregating outdoors, especially to drink.

On Friday, demonstrators in Naples protesting a 11pm to 5am curfew clashed with police.

On Saturday night, far-right and neo-fascist political groups led a similar protest in Rome against its curfew.

Conte said he understands the frustration of citizens, whose incomes and way of life are being heavily hit by pandemic limitations.

“I’d feel anger, too, towards the government,” he said, but noted authorities had determined protests have also been fuelled by agitators.

Since early in the pandemic, masks have been required on Italy’s public transport and in indoor venues like supermarkets and other stores.

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