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Italian PM urges for vigilance to avert 2nd lockdown as daily COVID-19 cases hit record high

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte

Rome, Italy | XINHUA |   Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte on Friday said all steps should be taken to avert a second national lockdown, as a recent spike in new coronavirus cases boosted fears across the country.

“I share the growing concern about the rise in infections these days throughout Europe and in Italy,” Conte said in a video speech delivered at Work Festival 2020, an event organized by the National Council of Labor Consultants.

He explained Italy was still “in the pandemic” and should make the most of the experience it painfully gained in spring — namely the worst months that followed the first outbreak of the virus here.

He said the goal was to “contain the infection, and avoid a halt of production and working activities, as well as the closure of schools and public offices.”

“We must avert a second generalized lockdown, and in order to do so we must be vigilant and ready to intervene any time, wherever is necessary,” Conte stressed.

The prime minister’s remarks came as the country registered 19,143 new cases (including 16,700 new active infections) over the last 24 hours, a new record high.

The country totaled 484,869 cases, which comprised 186,002 infections, 261,808 recoveries, and 37,059 fatalities.

The increasing trend in the pandemic has become particularly worrying in the last two weeks, with daily increases ranging between some 5,300 cases on Oct. 9 and the new record exceeding 19,000 on Friday.

The cabinet has so far reacted by implementing increasingly restrictive provisions, and its last decree on Oct. 13 banned private parties, lingering outside bars, clubs, and stores, and food and drinks service to people not sitting at tables by 6 p.m.

Some regional governments implemented stricter measures at the local level including the closure of bars and restaurants by 11 p.m. or 12 midnight, and a night curfew in northern Lombardy (with Milan as its capital), central Lazio surrounding Rome, and southern Campania.

Altogether, the three regions count for over 21.7 million people (out of a total population of 60 million in the country).

Yet, some 100 scientists on Friday appealed for further steps. In a letter sent to Conte and President Sergio Mattarella, and quoted by all major dailies online, the researchers and university professors called for “drastic measures in the next two-three days” in order to slow down the current rate of virus spreading.

They warned the country must avoid “the numbers of the infection to inevitably arrive to produce several hundred deaths per day in the next three weeks” — a perspective they deemed likely without further restrictions.

They did not ask for another national lockdown, but called for “more stringent and effective measures.”

The appeal was originally written by Giorgio Parisi, a physicist and president of Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei (Italian Academy of Sciences).

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