Health and Science

Europe's Covid outbreak emerged in Italy — here's what's happening there now

Key Points
  • Italy became Europe's first coronavirus hotspot in spring.
  • The first cases of the virus emerged in the regions of Lombardy and Veneto in February.
  • Italy was the first country in Europe to put areas into lockdown.

In this article

Healthcare workers transfer a COVID-19 patient in a biocontainment stretcher at the Covid emergency room of San Filippo Neri Hospital during the lockdown measures to contain the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, on October 29, 2020 in Rome, Italy.
Antonio Masiello | Getty Images

Italy became Europe's first coronavirus hotspot earlier this year, after cases started to emerge in the northern regions of Lombardy and Veneto in February.

It imposed the first lockdown outside of China, after the virus spread throughout the country and across the continent.

Summer saw a lull in infections in Italy, as elsewhere, before a second wave of coronavirus infections took hold.

Now, daily numbers of infections remain high, and last week it reported a record-high number of daily deaths. Here's a snapshot of what's going on in Italy at the moment.

What's the virus situation?

Italy currently has the second-highest number of coronavirus infections in Europe after France, with 1,728,878 confirmed cases, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. Over 60,000 people have died from the disease in the country.

On Monday, 13,720 new Covid cases and 528 further deaths were recorded, with figures likely lower because of the weekend lag. It comes after 18,887 new cases on Sunday and 21,052 on Saturday. On Friday, meanwhile, 24,099 new infections were counted, health ministry data show — a number more indicative of Italy's current virus trend.

Last Thursday, 993 deaths were registered, beating a previous record of 919 daily deaths during the first wave of the virus.

Italy's public health agency, the Higher Health Institute, on Monday said that almost 40% of Italy's 60,000 Covid deaths have been in the worst hit region, Lombardy.

What about the holidays?

Last week, the Italian government passed another package of strict restrictions that are seen as a crucial way to avoid a further spike in cases.

They include banning travel between Italian regions between Dec. 21 and Jan. 6, meaning that families spread across Italy will be unable to get together at Christmas, unless they travel before the rules come into force.

The measures, posted online by Italy's Ministry of Health, also include a ban on leaving one's home town on Christmas Day, St Stephen's Day (Boxing Day, Dec. 26) and New Year's Day.

The government has maintained the current curfew, with people not allowed out of their homes between 10pm and 5am (and extended to 7am on New Year's Day), except for work or health reasons. That rules out midnight mass for millions of Catholics in Italy.

Italian tourists travelling abroad from Dec. 21 to Jan. 6 must undergo a mandatory quarantine upon their return, the ministry stated. Foreign tourists arriving in Italy during the same period will also have to quarantine.

Red zones

As in other countries, Italy has employed a tiered system to differentiate parts of the country by their risk profile, with different rules applied in these areas.

The highest-risk areas are classed as "red zones" and have the strictest restrictions. These are followed by medium-to-high-risk "orange zones" with elevated restrictions, and moderate-risk yellow zones where baseline restrictions are in place.

Currently, the yellow area includes the regions of: Emilia Romagna, Friuli Venezia Giulia, Lazio, Liguria, Marche, Molise, Trento, Puglia, Sardinia, Sicily, Umbria and Veneto.

The orange areas include: Basilicata, Calabria, Campania, Lombardy, Piemonte, Bolzano, Tuscany and Valle d'Aosta.

The only red zone at the moment is the central region of Abruzzo. In a red area, only shops selling essential goods can remain open, and restaurants and bars can only offer takeaway service.

Residents in red zones are not allowed to move around within their own area (whether by public or private transport) unless it's for essential reasons. Anyone needing to leave home for work, study, health or emergency reasons have to fill out a form. In a red zone, visiting or meeting any relatives or friends you don't live with, in any place open or closed, is banned.

Lockdowns and continued restrictions are clearly affecting some Italians more than others; a story has gone viral of an Italian man who, after having an argument with his wife, went out for a walk to cool off and ended up walking for 450km (280 miles). Italians nicknamed the man, who was fined 400 euros by police for breaching the curfew rules, "Forrest Gump" after the film character who runs thousands of miles across America.