Italy government orders Christmas, New Year lockdown to prevent COVID surge

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ROME (Reuters) - Italy will be placed under nationwide lockdown for much of the Christmas and New Year holiday, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said on Friday, as the government looks to prevent a fresh surge in coronavirus cases.

The announcement ended days of indecision and wrangling within the coalition, which was split between those wanting a complete shutdown and those pressing for more limited action to help struggling businesses and to allow some family reunions.

Under the new rules, non-essential shops will be shuttered between Dec. 24-27, Dec. 31- Jan. 3 and Jan. 5-6. On those days, Italians will only be allowed to travel for work, health or emergency reasons.

Shops will be able to open between Dec. 28-30 and on Jan. 4 and people will be free to leave their houses at that time. However, throughout the holiday period, all bars and restaurants must remain closed.

(Reporting by Angelo Amante, Editing by Crispian Balmer)