's Campania region set for COVID lockdown, urges national curbs

By Crispian Balmer

(Reuters) - 's Campania region, based on the southern city of Naples, said on Friday it was set to impose a lockdown to stamp out a surge in coronavirus and urged the national government to follow suit.

Daily infections have risen six-fold across since the start of the month, hitting a record 16,079 on Thursday, raising fears that the pandemic is racing out of control in a country which already has one of the highest death tolls in the world.

Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte has said he wants to avoid the sort of rigid, nationwide lockdown introduced in March when the disease first flared. He is largely leaving it up to regional leaders and mayors to decide how best to respond.

Vincenzo De Luca, the outspoken head of Campania, has set the pace and has already shut schools and announced a nighttime curfew. On Friday, he said much tougher curbs were on the way.

"Current data on the contagion make any kind of partial measure ineffective. It is necessary to close everything, except for those businesses that produce and transport essential goods," De Luca wrote on Facebook.

"Campania will move in this direction very soon," he added. He did not fix a precise date, but said the measures would involve a ban on travel into and out of the region, as well as restrictions on movement within local areas.

The governor of Lombardy, which includes 's financial capital Milan, said on Friday his region faced a "dramatic situation" and urged locals to respect a curfew that runs from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m., amongst other measures.

Underscoring the growing concern, a group of prominent scientists and researchers urged the government to take immediate, forceful action on a national level, warning that hundreds might die each day without a tougher strategy.

"The longer you wait, the measures you eventually take will have to be tougher, last longer and thus inflict a greater economic impact," the 100 academics wrote in an open letter to Conte.

(Reporting by Crispian Balmer)

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