After riots in Naples, Italy set to adopt tighter virus restrictions

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Italy reported a further record daily total of 19,644 new coronavirus cases on Saturday as the government considered further restrictions including early closures of bars and restaurants to contain a resurgence of the pandemic.

Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte has said he wants to avoid a repeat of the blanket lockdown earlier in the year. But a number of regions have imposed overnight curfews and the central government is expected to announce more measures soon.

Conte pledged on Saturday to speed up help for businesses suffering in the crisis but said the weeks ahead would be very complex. “We cannot lower our guard,” he added.

According to a draft decree, public gyms and swimming pools may be closed and bars and restaurants told to shut from 6 p.m., while people will be encouraged not to travel outside their home districts.

Like many authorities across Europe, the Italian government is desperate not to close down the economy completely but is facing growing public anger at renewed restrictions that are being imposed to limit public gatherings.

Italian police arrested two people in connection to the riots that took place overnight in Naples against a curfew and planned regional lockdown to stem the coronavirus.

“What happened in Naples last night is extremely serious,” Deputy Interior Minister Matteo Mauri said, condemning the attacks on police.

“It is absolutely clear that it was not a spontaneous protest but premeditated actions, almost totally organised by fringe (football) hooligans, criminal groups and political extremists.”

Hundreds of people gathered outside the office of Campania regional president Vincenzo De Luca, chanting “freedom”, hurling things at police in riot gear, and overthrowing and setting fire to garbage bins.

A reporter and a cameraman for the SkyTG24 news channel were assaulted.

The Fanpage news website blamed members of the Camorra Mafia and hardcore Naples hooligans for inflaming the protests, which were also endorsed by the neo-Fascist Forza Nuova party.

“May Naples be the first city that rises against the health dictatorship,” Forza Nuova leader Roberto Fiore said before the demonstration.

Campania, the region that includes Naples, is experiencing a major surge in coronavirus infections. On Friday it recorded 2280 new cases, a nearly 50 per cent increase from the previous day.

An 11pm-5am curfew was first applied overnight but De Luca announced on Friday plans to go further with a regional lockdown lasting “a month, 40 days”.

As infections are surging across Italy and not just in Campania, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte’s government is under mounting pressure to take stricter virus containment action.

The government has resisted calls for a national lockdown due to its economic and social cost but is considering a countrywide extension of the curfews adopted by Campania and some other regions

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