Half of Italy's regions have gone into the strictest form of lockdown in a bid to curb the latest spike in coronavirus infections that have brought COVID-19 hospital admissions beyond manageable thresholds.
Schools, from day-care centers through university level, and retail shops were shuttered Monday in nine regions and the autonomous province of Trento, with restaurants open only for take-out. The “red zones” were imposed up and down the peninsula, from Lombardy in the north to Puglia in the south, with the Lazio region around the capital Rome in between.
The rest of the country was placed under a lesser “orange” level lockdown, while lucky Sardinia remained “white” thanks to its ability to control new clusters of the virus traced to the variant first identified in Britain.
The Health Ministry last fall developed a tiered status of restrictions classifying individual regions on a weekly basis based on their infection rates, hospital capacity and other criteria. Until recently only a few hard-hit regions were under full lockdown, but new clusters of highly contagious virus variants have meant more and more regions have passed into the tightest “red zone” restrictions, even as vaccinations ramp up.