image captionRome has already made masks mandatory in busy outdoor areas
Italy has made it mandatory to wear face masks in outdoor spaces across the country in an attempt to contain the spread of the coronavirus.
Italians must also wear masks indoors everywhere except in private homes.
Although Covid-19 cases are much lower in Italy than in many other European countries, there has been a steady rise in infections.
PM Giuseppe Conte said tough measures were needed to avoid a return to an economically devastating lockdown.
“From now on, masks and protective gear have to be brought with us when we leave our house and worn. We have to wear them all the time unless we are in a situation of continuous isolation,” he said.
Masks must also be worn in shops, offices, on public transport, and in bars and restaurants when not seated at a table.
The measures have already been put in place in some parts of Italy that have seen an increase in infections, such as Rome, but the latest announcement makes them nationwide.
Italians were subject to some of the strictest lockdown measures in the world when the country became the first in Europe to be overwhelmed by the coronavirus earlier in the year.
Although it has managed to keep the virus in check more successfully than many other European countries in recent months, cases in the last 24 hours have surged past the 3,000 mark for the first time since 24 April, registering 3,678 new infections, data from the health ministry shows.
Italy also took action on Wednesday to stem the number of cases coming in from Europe, announcing compulsory testing for anyone travelling from the UK, Netherlands, Belgium and the Czech Republic.
Elsewhere in Europe:
- The Czech Republic now has the highest number of new cases per 100,000 inhabitants over the past 14 days in the EU, overtaking Spain
- Cases have also reached a record high in the Netherlands, with nearly 5,000 recorded in 24 hours
- All pubs and restaurants across central Scotland – including in Glasgow and Edinburgh – are to be closed from Friday. England is considering similar measures in some regions
- All bars and cafes in Belgium’s capital Brussels are closing for a month
- In Paris, Covid-19 patients are taking up more than 40% of intensive care beds
- Several other European countries – including Poland and Ukraine – have registered record daily infections