Italian regions that include the cities of Naples and Florence have been declared coronavirus red zones, the latest signals of the dire condition of Italian hospitals struggling with a surge of new admissions.
The director of the National Health Institute, Gianni Rezza, on Friday said the stricter measures were justified by a "worrisome increase in hospitalisations" as Italy's rate of new confirmed cases reached 650 per 100,000 people.
Confirmed cases hit a daily pandemic record of nearly 40,902 and 550 people died of the virus in 24 hours, bringing the country's known death toll to 44,139. Italy has reported a total of more than 1.1. million virus cases.
Naples hospitals made headlines this week when a viral video showed an elderly man lying dead on the floor of an emergency room bathroom.
The smartphone video, shot inside Antonio Cardarelli Hospital, also shows an overcrowded emergency area with patients lying on stretchers close together and left without medical assistance.
The south of Italy largely was spared during the deadly epidemic that exploded in the north during March and April. However, the virus spread throughout the country during a summer that featured packed Italian beaches, restaurants and nightclubs.
In the Campania region, which includes Naples, the situation has intensified, with hospitalisations going from 421 on October 1 to 2153 on Friday.
The Italian government is imposing restrictions under a three-tiered system, with red as the least restrictive, orange in the middle and yellow as the most serious.
Red zone regions are subject to partial lockdowns under which only grocery stores, pharmacies and other shops deemed necessities may remain open.
On Sunday, Campania and Tuscany are set to join join five other red-zone regions and autonomous provinces, including Italy's virus epicentre, Lombardy, and the southern region of Calabria.
Australian Associated Press