Italy towns under new restrictions amid COVID infection rise

International

ROME (AP) — Twenty small towns in northern Italy’s autonomous South Tyrol province went into a partial lockdown Wednesday to try to contain rising coronavirus infections and save the key winter tourism season in one of the least-vaccinated parts of Italy.

The restrictions in the towns north of Bolzano include the closure of bars and restaurants after 6 p.m., a nighttime curfew from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. and a requirement to wear an FFP2 face mask on public transportation, according to the ordinance.

The autonomous German-speaking province in the Dolomite mountains borders newly locked down Austria and has long harbored a certain libertine sentiment. The province of South Tyrol has ranked among the least vaccinated in Italy during the pandemic, registering between 5 and 10 percentage points behind the national average in younger age groups.

The provincial governor, Arno Kompatscher, said he was imposing the restrictions preemptively, and through Dec. 7 at least, to try to prevent a wholescale lockdown and save the vital ski industry that already lost the last two seasons to COVID-19.

The 20 towns met the new provincial criteria requiring restrictions: More than 800 cases per 100,000 residents in a week, more than five new cases in a day, and a vaccination rate of less than 70% of the population over age 12.

Italy, where Europe’s outbreak began in February 2020, has fully vaccinated more than 84% of its over-12 population. Italy is seeing a rise in infections as in other Western European countries, but to a more measured degree, recording around 10,000 new cases and fewer than 100 deaths a day.

But the rise has nevertheless sparked proposals to impose restrictions on non-vaccinated people to prevent a lockdown that would impede an economic reboot after Italy’s gross domestic product shrank 8.9% last year.

Proposals include revamping Italy’s “Green Pass” by restricting access to museums, indoor dining and cinemas to only people who have been vaccinated or have recovered from COVID-19. Unvaccinated people can currently access such venues with a “Green Pass” from a negative test.

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