Italy Imposes National Lockdown As Virus Surges Ahead of Holidays

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Italy Imposes National Lockdown As Virus Surges Ahead of Holidays
The country's prime minister announced the "red zone" period starting Monday amid fears of a third COVID-19 wave.
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Italy will go under a nationwide lockdown through Christmas and New Year. 

Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte [JA-ZEP-AY CON-T-EH] announced severe "red zone" restrictions, starting Monday, amid fears of a third wave. These are the strictest measures under Italy's tiered system of coronavirus rules introduced in November. 

The lockdown includes closing all non-essential shops and forbidding travel unless for work, health or emergency reasons. 

According to Johns Hopkins University, Italy has the highest rate of deaths per 100,000 people of any country in the world. Italy was the first nation, after China, to be hard-hit by the virus and its death rate has surged in the last two months.

Officials are hoping that new COVID-19 vaccines, to be administered starting Dec. 27,  can bring its long-running national tragedy to an end.

Meanwhile, other parts of Europe are also tightening restrictions due to virus fears. The Netherlands and Germany are under lockdown until January. Austria will enter another  lockdown - its third - after Christmas. And U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced additional restrictions Saturday, citing reports of a newly identified strain of the virus that is spreading even more dangerously.