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Italy’s government told country is in a ‘war situation’ and must lock down now

Italy is in a “war situation” and the country must lock down now to prevent a national tragedy, an adviser to the Italian government said on Wednesday.

The country is on course to exceed more than 700,000 deaths this year, compared with 647,000 last year. The surge is attributed to the coronavirus death toll, with the official tally now at 65,857, the fifth highest in the world.

Walter Ricciardi, a public health professor who advises Italy’s health ministry, said the last time Italy experienced anything like it was during the Second World War.

“We are in a war situation, people don’t realise it but the last time we had this many deaths, bombs were dropping on our cities during the war,” he told television channel la7.

As with many countries, Italy’s death toll is considered an underestimate because many people thought to have died of Covid-19 during the first wave were never tested for the virus.

Italy’s Lombardy region became the first virus hot spot outside Wuhan, China, as hospital admissions began to surge in March.

The Italian government has so far avoided a second national lockdown in favour of a traffic-light system of restrictions.

A nightly curfew of 10pm is in place across the country and Italians have been urged to avoid irresponsible gatherings over Christmas.

But Prof Ricciardi said the restrictions were not enough.

“The Netherlands has locked down with half our deaths, Germany has locked down with a third of them – I don’t understand this hesitation,” he told La Stampa.

“If we don’t take adequate measures, we are heading for a national tragedy.”

In Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel hinted that a hard lockdown that began on Wednesday could continue beyond next month.

Ms Merkel, who is worried about the effect on the health system, said the tough lockdown would be imposed until January 10 “at the earliest”. Shops and schools will stay shut over Christmas, following its “lockdown lite” in November, which closed bars and restaurants but failed to contain the second wave.

The death toll jumped to 952 on Wednesday, the highest since the pandemic began, but the figure was inflated by a technical problem in one state.

Meanwhile, EU chief Ursula von der Leyen said member states had agreed to start vaccinations on the same day.


Italy is in a “war situation” and the country must lock down now to prevent a national tragedy, an adviser to the Italian government said on Wednesday.

The country is on course to exceed more than 700,000 deaths this year, compared with 647,000 last year. The surge is attributed to the coronavirus death toll, with the official tally now at 65,857, the fifth highest in the world.

Walter Ricciardi, a public health professor who advises Italy’s health ministry, said the last time Italy experienced anything like it was during the Second World War.

“We are in a war situation, people don’t realise it but the last time we had this many deaths, bombs were dropping on our cities during the war,” he told television channel la7.

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As with many countries, Italy’s death toll is considered an underestimate because many people thought to have died of Covid-19 during the first wave were never tested for the virus.

Italy’s Lombardy region became the first virus hot spot outside Wuhan, China, as hospital admissions began to surge in March.

The Italian government has so far avoided a second national lockdown in favour of a traffic-light system of restrictions.

A nightly curfew of 10pm is in place across the country and Italians have been urged to avoid irresponsible gatherings over Christmas.

But Prof Ricciardi said the restrictions were not enough.

“The Netherlands has locked down with half our deaths, Germany has locked down with a third of them – I don’t understand this hesitation,” he told La Stampa.

“If we don’t take adequate measures, we are heading for a national tragedy.”


In Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel hinted that a hard lockdown that began on Wednesday could continue beyond next month.

Ms Merkel, who is worried about the effect on the health system, said the tough lockdown would be imposed until January 10 “at the earliest”. Shops and schools will stay shut over Christmas, following its “lockdown lite” in November, which closed bars and restaurants but failed to contain the second wave.

The death toll jumped to 952 on Wednesday, the highest since the pandemic began, but the figure was inflated by a technical problem in one state.

Meanwhile, EU chief Ursula von der Leyen said member states had agreed to start vaccinations on the same day.


The European Medicines Agency, the regulator, brought forward the date to December 21 from December 28 to decide whether it would approve the vaccine, after pressure from Germany – home to BioNTech, one of the vaccine’s developers – to give the shot the green light before Christmas.

The UK, the US and Canada have already approved the vaccine.

Ms Von der Leyan said: “To get to the end of the pandemic, we will need up to 70 per cent of the population vaccinated. This is a huge task, a big task. So let’s start as soon as possible with the vaccination together, as 27, with a start at the same day.”

In the UK, more than 137,000 people received the shot in the first week of vaccinations. Nadhim Zahawi, the UK’s vaccines minister, tweeted that it had been a “really good start”.

Although Britain has already started using the vaccine, high infection numbers forced London on Wednesday to go under the toughest coronavirus restrictions. The government also faced calls for it to drop its plan to allow three households to meet up over Christmas.

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