Depth: 18 km
Distances: 26 km E of Reggio Calabria, Italy / pop: 169,000 / local time: 11:57:42.5 2020-12-19
Italy is to go into a new lockdown for much of the Christmas and New Year period to tackle a rise in coronavirus cases.
Bars, restaurants and non-essential shops will close between 24 and 27 December, New Year’s Eve to 3 January, and 5 to 6 January.
Italians will only be allowed to travel for work, health or emergency reasons.
Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said it was “a painful decision”, but it comes amid a surge in COVID-19 infections.
“The situation is difficult across Europe. The virus continues to circulate everywhere,” he told reporters.
“Our experts were seriously worried that there would be a jump in cases over Christmas… We therefore had to act, but I can assure you it was not an easy decision.”
He said limited visits will be allowed to see elderly parents who live alone, adding that the police would not be sent into people’s homes to ensure they were sticking to the rules – but appealed to the population to follow the measures.
Mr Conte said the action was necessary to “confront the upcoming holidays in a way to better protect ourselves, and also in view of the general resumption of activities that will come in January”.
Italy was the first western country to be badly hit by the virus in February and as of Friday, 67,894 people had died as a result of the disease, the highest number of fatalities in Europe.
The increased measures there come as several countries in Europe which had contained the coronavirus early in the pandemic are now seeing a rise in cases, prompting tough action in the run-up to Christmas.
Sweden, which has had a comparatively hands-off response to the pandemic and has tried not to let it disrupt normal life, is introducing its toughest restrictions yet.
Curbs on the numbers that can gather in restaurants, shops and gyms start from next week, while people have been told to work from home. The government is also now recommending face masks are worn on public transport.
The Scandinavian country has not gone into lockdowns or closed businesses, relying instead on people’s common sense to control infections.
However, it is seeing a rapid increase in confirmed cases that is straining the health care system, with Prime Minister Stefan Lofven describing the situation as “very serious”.
It registered a record 9,654 new daily coronavirus cases on Friday and 100 deaths, taking the total number of fatalities to 7,993.
Restaurants, bars, cultural venues and sports facilities have been ordered to shut next week in Switzerland which the Swiss government says is necessary as “hospitals and health care workers have been under extreme pressure for weeks and the festive period increases the risk of an even more rapid rise in cases”.
Meanwhile, the head of emergencies at the World Health Organisation said a team of international experts looking into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic would be travelling to the city of Wuhan in China – the suspected site of the initial outbreak – in the first week of January.
Dr Michael Ryan says there would be quarantine arrangements for the team, which would be working “with our Chinese colleagues”, but will not be “supervised by Chinese officials”.
He said the world should celebrate the arrival of vaccines, but the “next three to six months are going to be tough”.
Courtesy of Sky News
COVID-19: Tier 4 lockdown announced for London and most of South East – with Christmas bubbles cancelled for millions
Millions of people across southeast England will no longer be able to mix with other households at Christmas, with a new Tier 4 level of COVID restrictions – equivalent to a full lockdown – to come into force tomorrow.
In a dramatic move, prompted by fears over a new strain of coronavirus, all those areas currently in Tier 3 in the South East – including London – will move to the new Tier 4 on Sunday.
And, in further stark action across the rest of England, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said the planned five-day easing of restrictions over the festive period will now be limited to a single day.
“We cannot continue with Christmas as planned,” said Mr Johnson, as he announced the action “with a very heavy heart” at a Downing Street news conference on Saturday.
The Tier 4 measures will see all non-essential shops, gyms, and hairdressers close, with people ordered to stay home apart from limited exceptions such as work – if people cannot work from home – education, childcare and exercise.
People in Tier 4 areas will no longer be allowed to form “Christmas bubbles” with other households.
Meanwhile, outside of the South East, people will still be allowed to mix in private homes with up to two other households, but now only on Christmas Day.
The Tier 4 measures in the South East will be in place for an initial two-week period, and Mr Johnson stressed that people must stick to the rules for the New Year period.
Those in Tier 4 areas are being ordered not to stay overnight away from home or travel abroad for holidays, while people in other areas are being advised not to enter Tier 4 areas – and not to travel generally if they can avoid it.
Under England’s new highest level of restrictions, only one person from a household can meet with another person from a different household outside, although exemptions will continue for support bubbles and childcare bubbles.
Those who are deemed to be clinically extremely vulnerable will be told to follow the same guidance as during November’s England-wide lockdown, which urged those people to stay at home as much as possible apart from outdoor exercise or to attend health appointments.
Downing Street suggested schools would still reopen in Tier 4 areas after the Christmas holidays.
The action has been prompted by the government’s fears over a new strain of coronavirus – known as VUI-202012/01 – which is believed to spread more quickly than the original strain and is judged to be the reason for rapidly rising infection rates in the South East.
Mr Johnson said it could be up to “77% more transmissible”, and that the situation had given him “no alternative” but to toughen up restrictions.
However, England’s chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty, has said there is “no current evidence to suggest the new strain causes a higher mortality rate or that it affects vaccines and treatments although urgent work is underway to confirm this”.
COVID-19 cases have been nearly doubling in London over the past few weeks, while in Kent cases have continued to rise despite the county having been under Tier 3 measures since the end of last month’s lockdown.
This has led to fears that Tier 3 measures are unable to contain the new strain and more needs to be done in London and the South East.
The new strain has been detected in two other countries other than the UK, albeit in very small quantities.
People in all tiers in England were advised to “stay local” by Mr Johnson and to “carefully consider whether they need to travel abroad”.
The prime minister earlier chaired a cabinet meeting on Saturday afternoon.
There are currently no plans to recall parliament to allow MPs to vote on the new measures.
Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon was due to hold her own news conference later on Saturday.
Courtesy of Sky News