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Italy Closes Gyms, Shuts Eateries Early To Fight COVID-19

FILE - In this Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2020 file photo, empty tables of a restaurant in the Duomo Square in Milan, Italy. The coronavirus pandemic is gathering strength again in Europe and, with winter coming, its restaurant industry is struggling. The spring lockdowns were already devastating for many, and now a new set restrictions is dealing a second blow. Some governments have ordered restaurants closed; others have imposed restrictions curtailing how they operate.  (AP Photo/Luca Bruno, File)

FILE - In this Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2020 file photo, empty tables of a restaurant in the Duomo Square in Milan, Italy. The coronavirus pandemic is gathering strength again in Europe and, with winter coming, its restaurant industry is struggling. The spring lockdowns were already devastating for many, and now a new set restrictions is dealing a second blow. Some governments have ordered restaurants closed; others have imposed restrictions curtailing how they operate. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno, File)

Italy's leader imposed at least a month of new restrictions across the country on Sunday to fight rising coronavirus infections, insisting that people outdoors wear masks, shutting down gyms, pools and movie theaters and putting an early curfew on cafes and restaurants.

ROME: Italy’s leader imposed at least a month of new restrictions across the country on Sunday to fight rising coronavirus infections, insisting that people outdoors wear masks, shutting down gyms, pools and movie theaters and putting an early curfew on cafes and restaurants.

Worried about crippling Italy’s stagnant economy, especially after 10 weeks of a severe lockdown earlier in the pandemic, Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte ruled against another heavy nationwide lockdown.

The decree Conte signed Sunday exempts children younger than six and those exercising outdoors from wearing masks and also made ski slopes off-limits to all but competitive skiers. It goes into effect Monday and lasts until Nov. 24.

A day earlier, Italy surpassed the half-million mark in the number of confirmed coronavirus cases since February, when it became the first country to be stricken in Europe. The last two days have seen daily new caseloads creep close to 20,000.

Restaurant and bar owners had lobbied hard against the new measures, which orders them to close at 6 p.m. daily. Most restaurants in Italy usually don’t even start to serve dinner before 8 p.m., so the restriction seriously cuts into revenues. Cafes and restaurants were allowed in recent months to re-open after the spring lockdown for outdoor dining or limited indoor seating.

Several Italian regions and cities recently slapped on overnight curfews to cut down on young people congregating outdoors, especially to drink.

On Friday, demonstrators in Naples protesting a 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew clashed with police. On Saturday night, far-right and neo-fascist political groups led a similar protest in Rome against that city’s curfew.

Conte’s latest decree keeps elementary and middle schools open but says 75% of high school students must have remote classes. Crowding on public transit, especially since schools reopened last month, has concerned health authorities.

Masks were already required on public transit and in indoor venues like supermarkets and other stores.

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