By Giada Zampano
ROME (AA) – Italy reported a new record-high in coronavirus infections since the start of the pandemic, with 21,994 cases Tuesday, as the government rushed to approve new financial aid for businesses hit by further restrictions.
The number of infections rose to 564,778, while new daily deaths jumped by 221, bringing nationwide fatalities to 37,700.
“The epidemic trend is rising, and that’s more evident in the past two, three weeks,” Health Ministry Prevention General Director Gianni Rezza said at a news conference.
“The number of deaths is still relatively limited and the number of people filling intensive care units is still below the alert level … but all of this indicates the need to implement adequate measures,” he added.
The government is under fire for having imposed further restrictions which forced gyms, pools, cinemas and theaters to close while bars and restaurants have to close before dinner hours.
In recent days, the new measures sparked protests in several cities, from north to south, with some turning violent. Associations of business owners complained the measures will have a devastating effect on their activities.
The government responded Tuesday by approving a new package of financial aid aimed at the worst-hit categories, including the food and tourism sectors, with funds available by mid-November.
The new measures, worth up to 5 billion euros, include funds for furlough schemes and stopping further layoffs.
However, analysts believe the economic package is unlikely to calm social tensions. According to a recent poll by SWG, 61% of Italians oppose the new measures, while Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte's popularity has also weakened.