Italy eyes new COVID-19 measures amid Omicron worries

Outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Milan
A woman wearing a protective face mask walks past a closed shop as the region of Lombardy becomes a 'red zone', going into lockdown as the country struggles to reduce the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) infections, in Milan, Italy, March 15, 2021. REUTERS/Flavio Lo Scalzo

ROME, Dec 19 (Reuters) - Italy's government is considering new measures to avoid a surge in COVID-19 infections during the holiday period, local newspapers reported on Sunday, amid worries over the spread of the highly contagious Omicron coronavirus variant.

After holding a meeting with ministers on Dec. 23, Prime Minister Mario Draghi could impose an obligation on the vaccinated to show a negative test to access crowded places, including discos and stadiums, daily Corriere della Sera reported.

Negative tests could also be required to enter cinemas and theatres, along with wearing masks outdoors.

Under current rules, people who have been vaccinated or have recently recovered from the disease have free access to indoor seating at bars and restaurants, museums, cinemas, clubs and sporting events.

"Some measures, such as making masks compulsory even outdoors ... could be taken soon," Franco Locatelli, one of the government's main scientific advisors, told the newspaper.

Italy - where vaccination is already mandatory for healthcare workers, school staff, police and the military - could extend the jab obligation to all workers from January, Corriere della Sera reported.

The National Health Institute (ISS) said on Saturday the Omicron variant is spreading quickly in Italy, with new cases identified in the country's north and south. A total of 84 infections have so far been identified. read more

Italy, the first Western country to be hit by the COVID-19 pandemic early last year, has seen an increase new infections and deaths in recent weeks, but daily caseloads remain well below some other European countries such as Britain and Germany.

Earlier this week, Rome extended a COVID-19 state of emergency to March 31 and ruled that all visitors from EU countries must take a test before departure. read more

Reporting by Angelo Amante; Editing by Kirsten Donovan

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