The Italian government has brought in new measures to help control a surge in coronavirus cases.

PM Giuseppe Conte said the measures were necessary in order to avoid a new lockdown, which the country cannot afford as the damage to the economy would be too great.

A further 11,705 new cases were announced on Sunday, up from 10,925 on Saturday. Badly hit in March and April, Italy’s total toll of 36,500 deaths place it second to only the UK, the worst-hit country in Europe.

Speaking on television on Sunday evening, Conte said: “We cannot waste time, we must put in place measures to avoid a generalised lockdown, which could severely compromise the economy. The government is here but everyone has to do their part.

“The most effective measures remain the basic precautions: mask, distance and hand hygiene. We must pay attention to situations where we let our guard down – with relatives and friends. In these situations, the maximum precaution is needed.”

Under the new measures, bars and restaurants will close at midnight, but after 18:00 only table service will be permitted. The maximum in any group will be set at six. Local conferences and festivals are suspended, and mayors will be given powers to close public places after 21:00.

Schools will stay open, but more distance learning will be introduced and the school day will start later.

FILE PHOTO: Empty tables are seen outside a restaurant in Rome as the country tightens regulations in an effort to control rising COVID-19 infections, Rome, Italy, October 14, 2020. REUTERS/Remo Casilli