Italy announced fresh nationwide lockdown amid the Christmas and New Year period to combat the spread of coronavirus infections.
The nation goes into a ‘red zone’ over the public holidays, with non-essential shops, restaurants and bars closed, and Italians only allowed to travel for work, health and emergency reasons.
However, limited home visits will be allowed.
Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said it was “not an easy decision”.
“Our experts were seriously worried that there would be a jump in cases over Christmas… We therefore had to act,” he said in a news conference.
During this period people “can leave the house only for reasons of work, necessity and health,” Mr Conte said.
But, he added, the rules will allow people to receive a maximum of two guests, not including people under the age of 14, in their homes. A curfew from 22:00 to 05:00 will remain in place.
Slightly looser curbs will be in place from 28 to 30 December and on 4 January. On these days, people will be free to leave their houses but bars and restaurants will remain closed.
Mr Conte said the rules were designed to “allow the minimum socialisation that is suitable for this period”.
He said police would not be sent into people’s homes to check the rules were being observed, but urged Italians to act responsibly.
Italy has recorded the highest Covid death toll in Europe, with close to 68,000 fatalities.
Mr Conte said the launch of the vaccination drive later this month would mark the beginning of “the end of this nightmare.”
The announcement of the Christmas restrictions on Friday followed days of wrangling in the governing coalition between those wanting a complete lockdown and others seeking limited action to help struggling businesses and allow families to meet.