Italy will extend a state of emergency imposed to curb the spread of the coronavirus until the end of April as infections currently show no sign of abating, Health Minister Roberto Speranza said on Wednesday.

The state of emergency, first introduced in January 2020, had been set to expire at the end of this month. It gives greater powers to central government, making it easier for officials to bypass the bureaucracy that smothers much decision-making in Italy.

“In the past week there has been a generalised worsening of the epidemic, we are back to an expansionary phase,” Speranza told the lower house of parliament.

“With indicators worsening… the government sees it appropriate to extend the state of emergency to April 30.”

Italy has registered 79 819 COVID-19 deaths since the pandemic first erupted last February, the second-highest toll in Europe and the sixth-highest in the world.

Italy has reported 2.303 million COVID-19 cases to date.