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HEALTH

How life in Italy has been hit by coronavirus outbreak

From the economy to travel and education, here's how Italy is currently being affected by the coronavirus outbreak.

How life in Italy has been hit by coronavirus outbreak
Passengers at Milan's central train station. Photo: AFP

Wide-ranging measures to halt the spread of the virus have affected the lives of tens of millions of people in Italy, with schools closed and cultural and sporting events cancelled.

As of Wednesday morning there are more than 320 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Italy and 11 deaths connected to the outbreak.

Since Saturday, 11 towns in the northern regions of Lombardy and Veneto, thought to be where the outbreak began, have been under lockdown with shops and public areas closed and police roadblocks preventing people from leaving or entering the area without a permit.

MAP: Which parts of Italy are most affected by coronavirus outbreak?

While such drastic measures have not been taken elsewhere in the country, the outbreak has had an impact on life across Italy, including in areas where no cases have been reported.

Here are the other ways Italy is currently being affected by the outbreak.

Photo: AFP

Travel

The only travel restrictions put in place by Italian authorities are around the “red zone” – the worst-hit 11 towns in Lombardy and Veneto.

No government has yet imposed a travel ban on Italy and neighbouring European countries have confirmed that borders will remain open.

However, France's junior transport minister on Tuesday recommended people avoid travel to the parts of Italy hit by the outbreak.

Italy's airports, train stations and borders remain open as usual.

READ ALSO: How safe is it to visit Italy after the coronavirus outbreak?

The only systematic flight restrictions are on direct flights between Italy and China, which were suspended at the end of January.

Passengers arriving at Italian airports can expect to have their temperature checked by health workers, a precautionary measure that has been in place since the end of January.

Authorities in the southern region of Basilicata, which has not had any reported cases of coronavirus, have ordered that anyone arriving from northern regions hit by the outbreak must undergo a 14-day period of quarantine or isolate themselves at home.

Passengers at Milan's central train station on Monday. Photo: AFP

Economy

Measures to stem the spread of infections in the industrial north are expected to have economic repercussions.

Economists say that Veneto and Lombardy alone “represent between 25 and 30 percent of Italian GDP.”

The Italian economy was already sluggish before the outbreak, and it must now contend with plunging stock prices in Milan, cancelled trade shows, and the expected blow to tourism.

Industry representatives are warning of severe effects for Italian hotels, restaurants and other businesses, which make a significant contribution to Italy's economy.

Photo: AFP

Hotels in Milan fear around a quarter of all bookings will be cancelled this week, trade body Federalberghi. More fallout is expected in the coming weeks.

Trade shows have been postponed, including the Milan Furniture Fair, which was scheduled for the end of April but has now been pushed back to June.

READ ALSO: How the coronavirus outbreak is affecting Italy's economy

Education

Local authorities have closed schools for at least a week in some regions, including Veneto, Lombardy, Piedmont, Emilia-Romagna and Liguria.

However not all regions have taken this step and the Italian government stated on Tuesday that media reports that it would shut down all of the nation's schools were false.

The government has however suspended all school trips and exchange programmes until March 25th.

ANALYSIS: Why has Italy seen such a huge leap in coronavirus cases?

Sport

Several upcoming football matches in Italian Serie A and Europa League will be played in empty stadiums amid coronavirus fears.

The country's rugby and volleyball federations have postponed fixtures set to take place next weekend.

Milan's San Siro stadium. File photo: AFP

Culture

The Venice carnival was cut short on Sunday and other major events on the cultural calendar have been cancelled over the past week, including the Ivrea orange festival and performances at Milan's famed opera house La Scala.

Late February and early March usually sees busy carnival events held across the country, but most have been cancelled by local authorities as a precaution, even in areas where no cases of coronavirus have been confirmed.

Milan Fashion Week was closed to the public and Bologna's Children's Book Fair has been postponed.

Production of the latest “Mission: Impossible” film starring Tom Cruise in Venice has also been halted.

In the worst-hit regions, Lombardy and Veneto, local authorities have banned events of any nature that attract crowds and closed museums and monuments, including Milan cathedral, which is off limits to tourists, although an area has been made available for those wanting to pray.

Find all The Local's coverage of the coronavirus outbreak in Italy here

 

A closed bar in front of Milan's Duomo. Photo: AFP

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COVID-19 RULES

Is Italy’s government planning to scrap all Covid measures?

The new Italian government has announced the end of some remaining Covid health measures. Here's a look at what will - and won't - change.

Is Italy’s government planning to scrap all Covid measures?

Few Covid-related restrictions remain in Italy today, six months after the nationwide ‘state of emergency’ ended.

The previous government had kept only a handful of precautionary measures in place – which the new government, led by Giorgia Meloni, must now decide whether or not to keep.

The cabinet is holding a meeting on Monday and will issue a decree this week detailing any changes to the health measures.

Many expect the government to scrap all measures entirely by the end of the year, after Meloni and her party criticised the way Mario Draghi’s administration handled the pandemic throughout its tenure. 

Meloni clearly stated in her first address to parliament last Tuesday that “we will not replicate the model of the previous government” when it comes to managing Covid.

READ ALSO: Five key points from Meloni’s first speech as new Italian PM

While she acknowledged that Italy could be hit by another Covid wave, or another pandemic, she did not say how her government would deal with it.

Meanwhile, new health minister Orazio Schillaci issued a statement on Friday confirming the end of several existing measures, saying he “considers it appropriate to initiate a progressive return to normality in activities and behaviour”.

Workplace ban for unvaccinated medical staff

Schillaci confirmed that the ministry will allow doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals to return to work after being suspended because they refuse to get vaccinated against Covid-19.

Those who refuse vaccination will be “reintegrated” into the workforce before the rule expires at the end of this year, as part of what the minister called a “gradual return to normality”.

They will be allowed to return “in light of the worrying shortage of medical and health personnel” and “considering the trend of Covid infections”, the statement said.

Fines issued to healthcare staff aged over 50 who refused vaccination would also be cancelled, it added.

There were some 1,579 doctors and dentists refusing vaccination at the end of October, representing 0.3 percent of all those registered with Italy’s National Federation of the Orders of Physicians, Surgeons and Dentists (Fnomceo) 

Daily Covid data reports

Schillaci also confirmed in the statement that the health ministry will no longer release daily updates on Covid-19 contagion rates, hospital cases and deaths, saying this would be replaced by a weekly update.

It said it would however make the data available at any time to relevant authorities.

Mask requirement in hospitals to stay?

The requirement to wear face masks in hospitals, care homes and other healthcare facilities expires on Monday, October 31st.

At a meeting on the same day the government is expected to decide whether to extend the measure.

READ ALSO: What can we expect from Italy’s new government?

While the government had looked at scrapping the requirement, it reportedly changed stance at the last minute on Monday after facing heavy criticism from health experts.

Media reports published while the meeting was in progress on Monday said government sources had indicated the measure would in fact be extended.

Confirmation is expected to come later on Monday.

Italy’s face mask rules in care homes and healthcare facilities are up for renewal. Photo by Thierry ZOCCOLAN / AFP

‘Green pass’ health certificate

There is no indication that the new government plans to bring back any requirements to show a ‘green pass’: the digital certificate proving vaccination against or recent recovery from Covid, or a negative test result.

The pass is currently only required for entry to healthcare facilities and care homes, and this is expected to remain the case.

‘Dismantling the measures’

Some of the confirmed changes were strongly criticised by Italy’s most prominent healthcare experts.

Head of the Gimbe association for evidence-based medicine, Nino Cartabellotta, said the focus on cancelling fines for unvaccinated healthcare workers was “irrelevant from a health point of view .. but unscientific and highly diseducative”.

He told news agency Ansa it was “absolutely legitimate” for a new government to discontinue the previous administration’s measures, but that this “must also be used to improve everything that the previous government was unable to do”.

The government should prioritise “more analytical collection of data on hospitalised patients, investments in ventilation systems for enclosed rooms … accelerating coverage with vaccine boosters,” he said.

However, the plan at the moment appeared to be “a mere dismantling of the measures in place,” he said, “in the illusory attempt to consign the pandemic to oblivion, ignoring the recommendations of the international public health authorities”.

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