Italy approved a fresh round of tight anti-COVID-19 restrictions nationwide on Friday, as the virus variants circulating in the country were boosting infections.
The new measures will be implemented between March 15 and April 6, including Easter Sunday and Easter Monday (April 4-5), which represent a traditional holiday for Italians in spring.
Prime Minister Mario Draghi's cabinet passed the decree in late morning, after discussing it on Thursday night with the scientific-technical committee (CTS) counseling Italian authorities during the pandemic emergency.
The provision will bring Italy back into a sort of lockdown-light, with restrictions very similar to those imposed over the Christmas-New Year period, which had allowed keeping the pandemic curve under control in January.
The three-tiered system, which divides the country into yellow, orange, and red zones -- for lower, medium, and high level of contagion risk, respectively -- was confirmed.
The new decree provided the whole country will turn "red" during the Easter weekend (April 3-5), thus embracing the maximum level of restrictions on business and social life.
In these days, people will be required to remain at home as much as possible, but for one single visit allowed to another private home a day by maximum two adults plus under-14 children. Bars, restaurants, hairdressers, beauty salons and any other leisure facility will remain closed.
Ahead of Easter, and starting on Monday, the regions currently in the yellow zone will be moved up into the orange zone, regardless of their local pandemic condition.
In addition, the decree provided that any area in the country registering more than 250 cases per 100,000 inhabitants within 7 days on average would be automatically declared a red zone between March 15 and April 6.
An ongoing ban on inter-regional travels due to expire on March 27 was extended, adding to the night curfew in place from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m.
The reopening of theaters and cinemas, scheduled on March 27, was postponed.
As of Friday, Italy has registered more than 3.1 million COVID-19 cases, including 509,317 active infections and some 101,564 fatalities, according to the Health Ministry's latest data.
Up to Friday, over 6.3 million people in Italy have been administered the authorized coronavirus vaccines, including President Sergio Mattarella, who received the first shot on Tuesday.
Seen as the most powerful weapon against the pandemic, vaccination campaigns with authorized anti-COVID-19 vaccines are now ongoing in many countries around the world.
Meanwhile, 263 candidate vaccines are being developed worldwide -- 81 of them in clinical trials -- including in Germany, Italy, China, Russia, Britain, and the United States, according to the World Health Organization.