Italy’s government is likely to extend itsregion-by-region lockdown system through the entire winter to counter the spread of the coronavirus while protecting the economy, the deputy health minister said.
Pierpaolo Sileri, a lawmaker from the Five Star Movement, told Bloomberg Television’s Francine Lacqua that the current decree dividing the country into areas of varying risk, with different restrictions on businesses and movement, will be extended beyond its current Dec. 3 expiration date.
“We need to monitor these regions and, as I think exposure to the virus will decrease, we will see better numbers,” Sileri, a 48-year-old surgeon, said at his Rome ministry. “I do see an extension of that for the entire winter. Obviously this will help us avoid a national lockdown.”
Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte has resisted pressure from coalition allies and doctors to impose a full national lockdown, arguing the fragile economy must be shielded from another body-blow following a strict three-month precedent in the spring.
Conte has so far stuck to imposing curbs region by region, on the basis of 21 parameters including the spread of the virus, the number of intensive care beds available and capacity for contact tracing. Conte’s latest decree also imposes a curfew between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. across the country.
Italy is set to announce its weekly review of regional data Friday and will decide if any additional area will be included in the highest-risk zone, Conte said.
Italy registered 636 deaths related to Covid-19 on Thursday, the most in seven months. While daily virus cases rose to 37,978 from 32,961 the day before, the rate of increase has slowed since last week, a sign that the curve may be flattening after the latest restrictions.
“The best that can be done is stop-and-go, that way you minimize economic damage. Where the circulation of the virus is less violent, leaving open some activities allows people to keep going,” Sileri said. “The government is giving significant support” to businesses and families, he added.
Sileri sounded an optimistic note about the Lombardy region around Milan, Italy’s financial capital. The area must remain a highest-risk area for a two-week period, but that could improve in a week’s time, he said.
“Some friends, some doctors in Lombardy are telling me that they are seeing fewer people going to the hospital, probably things are going better but that is the perception of some hospitals, we need to check the general number of the entire region,” Sileri said.
The deputy minister estimates that Italy will be able to start vaccinating health workers and the most at-risk people in the first three or four months of 2021.
“If we get more than 75% of the general population that would be fine, considering that it will be very hard because in Italy, only 15% of the population gets the flu vaccine,” he said.
— With assistance by Francine Lacqua
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