Italy locks down financial capital Milan and much of industrial north

ROME (Reuters) - Italy’s latest restrictions to try to rein in the coronavirus include a partial lockdown of its richest and most populous region Lombardy around the financial capital Milan, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said on Wednesday.

FILE PHOTO: People wearing protective face masks walk at a shopping mall ahead of weekend closure of shopping centres, a measure imposed by the Lombardy region to curb the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) infections, in Milan, Italy, October 23, 2020. REUTERS/Flavio Lo Scalzo

Earlier, the government published its new package of measures which toughen up nationwide curbs and divide the country into three zones - red, orange and yellow, according to the intensity of the epidemic.

The zoning depends on a raft of factors including local infection rates and hospital occupancy, with restrictions will calibrated accordingly.

In the critically affected red zones people will only be allowed to leave their homes for work, health reasons or emergencies and bars, restaurants and most shops will be closed.

High school classes and those for the final two years of middle school will be moved online.

However, unlike Italy’s national lockdown in the spring, all factories will remain open.

“Our intensive care capacity could be exhausted in a matter of weeks, we have to intervene,” Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said at a news conference to illustrate the package which comes into effect on Friday.

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Conte said the red zones would comprise the large northern regions of Lombardy and neighbouring Piedmont, along with Calabria in Italy’s southern toe and the tiny alpine region of Valle D’Aosta.

Lombardy accounts for around a sixth of Italy’s population and more than a fifth of its gross domestic product.

The orange regions, where shops will remain open and people can move freely within their towns and cities but not leave them, are Puglia in Italy’s heel and the island of Sicily.

The rest of the country’s 20 regions, including Lazio around the capital Rome, will be yellow, meaning there are no restrictions other than those imposed nationwide.

Italy saw 352 COVID-related deaths on Wednesday after registering 353 the day before, the health ministry reported earlier, while the daily tally of new infections rose to 30,550 from 28,244.

Under the nationwide restrictions regardless of zoning, restaurants and bars must close at 6 p.m., cinemas, restaurants, museums and gyms are all closed and shopping centres are closed at weekends.

All high school classes are to be held online, while younger children will still be allowed to attend school in person.

Reporting By Gavin Jones, editing by Angelo Amante