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COVID-19: Italy expands red-zones as daily cases surge

Italy has flagged more high-risk COVID-19 red zones as cases Italy-wide hit a new daily record. Tuscany and Campania will join other regions already added to the high-risk and placed under strict lockdown from Sunday. Authorities in Campania region which includes Naples have warned that the health system in the city is on the verge of collapse. Friday’s development came after Italy reported new 40,092 cases – its highest daily tally. It passed 1mn threshold earlier this week and has suffered more than 44,000 fatalities.

Talking to media, Italy’s COVID-19 focal person, Walter Ricciardi said the country has “two to three weeks to decide whether to impose a new national lockdown”.

Earlier this year, Italy became the epicenter of the virus in Europe but was able to control the spread following a tough national lockdown. Restrictions were gradually eased but had to introduce new strictest lockdown curbs after the start of a second wave of virus last week. Regions are divided into three zones i.e., red, orange and yellow highlighting the scale of risk from high to low.

The areas included in the red zone at the moment are Bolzano, Aosta Valley, Lombardy, Calabria and Piedmont. In these regions which are a home to about 16.5mn people – almost a quarter of Italy’s total population (60mn) – public can only leave home for work, health reasons and essential shopping/emergencies while all non-essential shops are shut under the lockdown. Restaurants, bars and gyms are also closed but people can exercise near their homes with face-coverings. Hairdressers are open for the service.

A quarter of the new cases appeared in Lombardy which includes Milan. It was the hard-hit area in Italy’s during the first spell of outbreak and it was Europe’s first COVID-19 hotbed. Campania, however, has been promoted straight away from the yellow to high-risk red One as cases surged in the region to threatening levels.

“The situation in Campania is out of control,” Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio told La Stampa newspaper on Friday. “We need urgent restrictions… people are dying.” Italian media in Naples has shown shocking images from hospitals with overwhelmed number of new admissions. Such was the rush of newly diagnosed patients that the medics at one hospital have brought oxygen tanks and other equipment outside the building in parking lot to treat people inside their vehicles.

“We have almost no more beds available,” Rodolfo Punzi, an official at Cotugno hospital, told AFP news agency.