Italy coronavirus second wave fears erupt as PM shuts all clubs and imposes face masks

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New cases in the past week in Italy, the first European country to be hit hard by the coronavirus, were more than double those registered three weeks ago and the median age of people contracting coronavirus has dropped below 40, data showed.  The new rules will start today (Monday) and will run until early September. 

Masks will be required between 6 pm and 6 am in areas close to bars and pubs and where gatherings are more likely.

“We cannot nullify the sacrifices made in past months. Our priority must be that of opening schools in September, in full safety,” Health Minister Roberto Speranza said on Facebook.

Speranza on Saturday urged young people to be as cautious as possible as “if they infect their parents and their grandparents, they risk creating real damage”.

The government had kept clubs open despite mounting criticism that they attracted large crowds, that social distancing was not being respected and masks were not being worn.

The industry has yearly revenues of four billion euros, the sector’s lobby group Silb said, calling on the government for support.

Industry Minister Stefano Patuanelli conceded there would be economic damage, but said he saw no alternative.

On Sunday, 479 new cases were confirmed, down from 629 on Saturday, with nightlife, the return of holidaymakers, and younger generations flouting social distancing rules being blamed by medical experts for the recent hike.

Since its outbreak came to light on Feb. 21, Italy has recorded more than 35,000 deaths.

Testing on holidaymakers landing in Rome’s airports began on Sunday after the government said on Wednesday that people travelling from Croatia, Greece, Malta and Spain must be screened for the virus or face quarantine measures.

On Friday, Greece set a temporary 50-person limit on public gatherings and said restaurants and bars in Athens and other areas must close by midnight, as the country seeks to contain a recent spike in COVID-19 infections.

The deputy civil protection minister said the limit on public gatherings would last until Aug. 24 and be imposed in parts of the country where infection numbers have risen.

Earlier, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis urged young people to wear masks, reminding them that they were not invulnerable to the novel coronavirus and could unwittingly infect their own families.

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Recent data has shown COVID-19 infections have started to spread among lower age groups, Mitsotakis said, and he urged those returning from vacation to large urban centres to wear masks.

“No measures can substitute for personal responsibility, particularly that of young people to protect their parents and grandparents,” Deputy Civil Protection Minister Nikos Hardalias said.

Greece reported 262 new infections on Wednesday, its highest daily tally since the start of the outbreak in the country.

Another 254 cases were reported on Friday.

That brings the total number of infections in Greece to 6,632 since late February, with 223 deaths.

The jump in infections has led the authorities gradually to introduce more restrictions at the peak of the tourism season.

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