By Giada Zampano
ROME - Italy reported 19,644 new coronavirus cases on Saturday, the highest single-day spike since the start of the pandemic.
According to Health Ministry data, as many as 178,000 swab tests were conducted over the past 24 hours.
The total number of confirmed cases in the country reached 504,509.
Italy also registered 151 new deaths over the past day, bringing the national death toll to 37,210.
The spike in the number of contagions observed over the past few weeks has put the government under growing pressure to enact new restrictive measures, in order to avoid a new nationwide lockdown that would be devastating for Italy’s fragile economy.
Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte was meeting regional authorities on Saturday to plan new restrictive measures that could be imposed at a national level as soon as next week.
In the past few days, local governors in several regions have enacted overnight curfews in a bid to stop huge get-togethers outside bars and restaurants.
The new rules sparked a violent protest in the southern city of Naples on Friday evening, triggering urban riots and clashes between masked protesters and the police.
Interior Minister Luciana Lamorgese on Saturday dubbed the protests as “unacceptable,” adding that Naples prosecutors have launched an investigation.
Lamorgese also said that security officials were planning to increase police forces in the area to avoid new riots.