Italy hit by anti-virus protests as infections surge to a new record

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Protest against Coronavirus measures in Milan - People gather in the center of Turin to protest against the measures taken by the government to maintain the spread of Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic. - Claudio Furlan/LaPresse via ZUMA Press/dpa

Protests against the Italian government's anti-coronavirus restrictions have spread across the country, with violent incidents in Milan and Turin as infections surged to a new daily record on Tuesday.

In Milan, several hundred protesters assembled at the regional government's headquarters near the main train station, with some throwing stones, petrol bombs and fireworks.

In Turin, protesters smashed shop windows in the city centre, lit firecrackers, threw bottles and smoke bombs and overturned garbage containers.

A Gucci luxury goods store was among those targeted in the riots that took place Monday night and early Tuesday.

A police spokesman in Milan told dpa that 28 people were taken to police headquarters after the incidents, but no arrests had yet been formalized. An officer was lightly injured, he added.

In Turin there were six arrests for crimes including resisting arrest and theft and around 10 police officers were injured, the ANSA news agency said.

There were demonstrations in several other cities, including Naples, Catania and Trieste. In Mestre, near Venice, a restaurant hosted a pre-curfew dinner also attended by Venice Mayor Luigi Brugnaro.

"I hope they will do a U-turn on these measures," he said on Twitter.

On Monday, the Italian government imposed the most draconian restrictions since the end of the lockdown in June in a bid to contain a mounting second wave of coronavirus infections.

Bars and restaurants were ordered shut at 6 pm (1700 GMT); gyms, pools, cinemas, theatres and concert halls closed; and high schools told to hold online classes for at least 75 per cent of students.

There were other anti-restrictions riots in Naples on Friday night and in Rome on Saturday night, animated by football hooligans and far-right extremists.

Many Italians are weary of new curbs, after enduring one of the world's longest lockdowns, and amid a gloomy outlook for the economy, expected to shrink by around 10 per cent this year.

The government met Tuesday and approved emergency aid for workers and businesses affected by mandatory closures, but details about the relief measures were not immediately available.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte replied to Riccardo Muti, a famed orchestra conductor who protested the shutdown of the culture sector.

"It was a particularly painful decision," Conte wrote in a letter to the Corriere della Sera newspaper. "We are forced to make these further sacrifices."

In a month, Italy's daily infection numbers have roughly increased tenfold.

On Tuesday, infections reached a record 21,994, while Covid-19-related deaths rose by 221, the highest daily figure since mid-May.

Another worrying trend is the escalating number of intensive care patients. They increased by more than five times in a month, to 1,411 on Tuesday.