Italy sees new high in COVID-19 infections since lockdown eased

Passengers of a flight from Valencia, Spain, wait to be tested for COVID-19 after disembarking at Rome's Ciampino airport, Wednesday, Aug. 19, 2020. Italy's health minister issued an ordinance requiring the tests for all travelers arriving in Italy from Croatia, Greece, Malta or Spain. (AP Photo/Riccardo De Luca)
Passengers tested for COVID-19 after disembarking at Rome's Ciampino airport. (AP)

Italy has recorded the highest daily rate of COVID-19 infections since it eased its lockdown.

In total there were 642 new cases and seven deaths recorded on Wednesday.

The country eased restrictions in May after enforcing one of the strictest lockdowns when it suffered a high number of casualties from the infection.

Since its outbreak came to light in February, Italy has recorded more than 35,000 deaths related to COVID-19.

On Monday, Italy shut nightclubs and made it compulsory to wear a mask outdoors in some areas during the night.

It was the first reimposition of restrictions as cases of coronavirus picked up across the country, especially among younger people.

New cases in the past week in Italy, the first European country to be hit hard by the coronavirus, were more than double those registered three weeks ago. The median age of people contracting the virus has also dropped below 40, data showed.

The new rules will run until early September.

Italian Health Minister Roberto Speranza with surgical mask during the session in the Senate Hall for communications from the President of the Council of Ministers Conte on further initiatives in relation to the epidemiological emergency from Covid-19 (Coronavirus). Rome (Italy), July 28th, 2020 (Photo by Massimo Di Vita/Archivio Massimo Di Vita/Mondadori Portfolio via Getty Images)
Italian health minister Roberto Speranza (Getty)

The government had kept clubs open despite mounting criticism they attracted large crowds, that social distancing was not being respected and masks were not being worn.

The industry has yearly revenues of €4 billion, the sector’s lobby group Silb said, calling on the government for support.

Industry minister Stefano Patuanelli conceded there would be economic damage, but said he saw no alternative.

Masks will be required between 6pm and 6am in areas close to bars and pubs and where gatherings are more likely.

“We cannot nullify the sacrifices made in past months. Our priority must be that of opening schools in September, in full safety,” health minister Roberto Speranza added on Facebook.

Speranza on Saturday urged young people to be as cautious as possible as “if they infect their parents and their grandparents, they risk creating real damage”.