Protests against new Covid-19 restrictions hit Italy

ROME — Protests against a fresh round of coronavirus restrictions hit about a dozen cities in Italy on Monday evening amid a surge in infection numbers across the country and the continent.

Meanwhile in Spain, one of Europe’s worst hot spots, doctors in capital Madrid were due to go into an indefinite strike Tuesday over working conditions amid the pandemic.

The new measures ordering Italian restaurants and bars to close from 6 p.m., shutting down cinemas and gyms and imposing local curfews in several regions of the country were met with protests, both peaceful and violent.

Smoke billows as clashes broke out during a protest against the government restriction measures to curb the spread of Covid-19 in Turin, Italy on Monday.Claudio Furlan / AP

Dozens of demonstrators in Turin in northern Italy threw huge firecrackers and bottles at the regional government’s headquarters. Police responded with volleys of tear gas as they tried to restore order in the city.

Photographs from the scene showed shops along the central piazza had their windows smashed, and 10 people were arrested after clashing with police, La Repubblica newspaper reported.

Tensions also rose in Milan, the country’s financial hub that was hit hard by the pandemic earlier this year, as dozens of demonstrators marched towards the regional authorities’ headquarters and threw stones, fireworks and bottles.

Reuters reported crowds chanting “Freedom, freedom, freedom,” as they confronted police in the city center.

Protesters also took to the streets in Trieste, Rome, Naples and Palermo. More protests were expected on Tuesday.

Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said Sunday the new measures were necessary to protect public health and the economy, and should bring the virus under control in the next few weeks to allow a “serene” Christmas.

Italy reported 17,012 new cases on Monday, a decline from 21,273 cases reported a day earlier. However, the percentage of positive tests has been rising, as has the number of patients in intensive care — it reached 1,284 on Monday.

Spain entered a second state of emergency on Sunday, enabling a night-time quarantine to be enforced across most of the country. The nation’s cumulative tally of coronavirus cases rose by 52,188 over the weekend.

Authorities in neighboring France are also looking at options for still tighter measures to fight Covid-19. President Emmanuel Macron will be holding two meetings on Tuesday and Wednesday to explore three options, including a repeat national lockdown, to contain the surge in cases.

France registered a record 52,010 new cases on Sunday, making it the country with the fifth-highest number of cases after the U.S., India, Brazil and Russia.

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In Germany, which was lauded for its initial Covid-19 response, government spokesman Steffen Seibert said on Monday that Chancellor Angela Merkel will be meeting with the country’s state ministers to address a “serious, tapering situation” as infections have almost doubled in the past week, with 8,685 new cases reported on Monday.

Merkel will go into the consultations with a “feeling of urgency,” Seibert added.

More than 43 million coronavirus cases have been reported globally and 1.15 million have died, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

Claudio Lavanga reported from Rome, Yuliya Talmazan from London. Reuters contributed to this report.

Nancy Ing and Andy Eckardt contributed.

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