Christmas only for close family members in Italy's coronavirus lockdown

·2-min read

For days Italians had been waiting to learn what Christmas and New Year would be like - what they would be allowed to do and what restrictions would be implemented during a season which has been celebrated with much enthusiasm and family participation.

This weekend they are digesting the reality after the answers arrived on Friday evening during a press conference held by the prime minister, Giuseppe Conte.

He told his compatriots that a new near lockdown across the country from 24 December to 6 January was a painful decision to take but a necessary one to protect the population from a surge in Covid-19 infections.

The situation in Italy continues to be difficult even though the number of new infections has been diminishing. The daily death toll is still much too high and the government felt extra measures were required.

Impact

Italy was the first country in Europe to be harshly hit by the pandemic and the death toll from the virus stands at nearly 68,000.

Conte told Italians there would be no travel permitted between Italian regions starting from next week unless there were proven work and health reasons or for an emergency.

Italians must stay at home during the entire period between 24 December and 6 January unless they need to buy groceries or other essential items.

Even sporting activities must be carried out alone and near the home. There will be only four days during this time that Italians will be allowed to leave their homes and shops will be open - between 28 and 30 December and 4 January. In addition, bars and restaurants will remain shuttered for the whole time.

Family time

The news of a Christmas and New Year lockdown has left millions devastated. The usual large family Christmas meals will not be possible this year after Conte said Italians should not allow more than two people from outside their strict family unit into their homes.

He did add, however, that the police would not be knocking on doors to check on numbers.

Conte said Italians will be able to go to church to attend mass where existing hygiene and social distancing restrictions will be maintained.

Services

Most Italians are preparing to follow Pope Francis’ Christmas Eve mass at the Vatican on their TV screens at home.

Midnight Mass - as it is known - will this year be celebrated at 7.30pm inside Saint Peter’s Basilica in Rome and with very few in attendance.

Pope Francis will deliver his customary Christmas Urbi et Orbi message on Christmas Day but again there will be no crowds in the Square, with its lonely Christmas tree and Nativity scene.