Italy to extend COVID state of emergency to end of January: PM

People wear face masks after the southern Italian region of Campania made it mandatory to wear protective face coverings outdoors 24 hours a day, as part of the efforts to contain the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Naples, Italy

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said on Thursday he would ask parliament to extend the country’s COVID-19 state of emergency to the end of January, as the government tries to avoid the surge in cases seen in other European countries.

The state of emergency, due to expire in mid-October, gives greater powers to central government, making it easier for officials to bypass the bureaucracy that smothers much decision-making in Italy.

“We will propose to parliament to extend the state of emergency, probably to the end of January 2021,” Conte told reporters during a visit to Caserta, in southern Italy.

The government holds a majority in the legislature.

Italy, the first European country to experience a major coronavirus outbreak during the spring, managed to curb infections after a strict lockdown that ran between March and May.

However, it has the highest COVID-19 death toll in continental Europe, with 35,894 confirmed fatalities.

Daily cases have picked up again over the past two months but they remain under 2,000, a fraction of the number in France and Spain, which have been forced to tighten restrictions again in some areas.

“The situation remains critical, although the infections are under control,” Conte added.

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