Almost all Italians support government lockdown measures, poll finds

A poll found 96 percent of Italians were in favour of the closures and quarantine measures enforced by the government in response to the coronavirus crisis.

Almost all Italians support government lockdown measures, poll finds
Central Rome on March 19. Photo: Filippo MONTEFORTE/AFP

Italy braced Thursday for an extended lockdown in attempt to stop the spread of the coronavirus, as the death toll in Italy looks set to match that in China.

Italy has recorded a total of 2,978 deaths, after a record 475 more fatalities were reported on Wednesday — the highest official one-day figure in the world.

READ ALSO: 'Stay at home': Italy's coronavirus quarantine rules explained

China reported no new infections for the first time on Thursday, and Italy seems on course to overtake its 3,245 fatalities later in the day.

Photo: AFP

It will take days or weeks yet before Italy sees the numbers of infected and deceased peak and stop rising after the government mplemented the quarantine measures, experts said.

While the far-reaching measures mean people in Italy are confined to their homes most of the time and almost all shops and businesses have had to close, a poll found overwhelming support for the government's decision.A poll published in La Repubblica newspaper found 96 percent of all Italians viewed the closure of most business and all schools and public institutions “positively” or “very positively” and just four percent said they were opposed.

While the measures are not as extreme as those taken in China's quarantine of Wuhan's Hubei province, they still seemed unimaginable for a Western democracy until this month.

“Use your common sense and act with utmost caution,” Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte told Italians on Thursday. “We are not underestimating anything and always acting based on the worst-case scenario.”

Medical staff at a temporary emergency facility outside a hospital in Lombardy. Photo: AFP

Conte has layered on the measures in segments and some of the strictest ones – such as the closure of all shops except for grocery stores and pharmacies – had been due to expire next Wednesday.

But the Italian leader said on Thursday morning that there was no question that everything “must be extended beyond the original deadline”.

This also means schools will not re-open on April 3 and working parents will have to find ways to look after their kids while working from home for many more weeks or months.

READ ALSO: What life under quarantine is really like around Italy

“At the moment, there are no other far-reaching restrictive measures being considered,” said Conte.

“But if our prohibitions are not respected, we will have to act.”

Italy is imposing 206-euro ($222) fines for anyone found wandering the streets without a valid reason, such as grocery shopping or getting to and from work.

Police in various Italian cities have been reading instructions over megaphones for everyone to “stay home and maintain distance” from each other.

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Covid-19: Are Italian live events at risk of being postponed?

As the infection rate rises sharply across the country, Italian virologists are calling for concerts and festivals to be rescheduled.

Covid-19: Are Italian live events at risk of being postponed?

Italy has seen a large increase in the number of Covid-19 cases in recent days, so much so that a number of virologists across the country are now urging the government to postpone major live events in a bid to curb infections. 

According to a new report by Italy’s independent health watchdog, the Gimbe Foundation, 595,349 new cases were recorded in the week from June 29th to July 5th; a worrying 55 percent increase on the previous week. 

In the same time span, the country also registered a 32.8 percent rise in the number of hospitalised patients, which went from 6,035 to 8,003.  

The latest Covid wave, which is being driven by the highly contagious Omicron 5 variant, is a “real cause for concern”, especially in terms of a “potential patient overload”, said Nino Cartabellotta, president of the Gimbe Foundation. 

As Italian cities prepare to host a packed calendar of concerts and festivals this summer, health experts are questioning whether such events should actually take place given the high risk of transmission associated with mass gatherings.

READ ALSO: What tourists in Italy need to know if they get Covid-19

“Rescheduling these types of events would be the best thing to do right now,” said Massimo Ciccozzi, Director of Epidemiology at Campus Bio-Medico University of Rome. 

The summer wave is expected to peak in mid-July but, Ciccozzi warns, the upcoming live events might “delay [the peak] until the end of July or even beyond” and extend the infection curve.

Antonello Maruotti, Professor of Statistics at LUMSA University of Rome, recently shared Ciccozzi’s concerns, saying that live events as big as Maneskin’s scheduled Rome concert are “definitely not a good idea”. 

The Italian rock band are slated to perform at the Circus Maximus on Saturday, July 9th but the expected turnout – over 70,000 fans are set to attend the event – has raised objections from an array of Italian doctors, with some warning that the concert might cause as many as 20,000 new cases.

If it were to materialise, the prospected scenario would significantly aggravate Lazio’s present medical predicament as there are currently over 186,000 Covid cases in the region (nearly 800 patients are receiving treatment in local hospitals). 

Italian rock band Maneskin performing in Turin

Italian rock band Maneskin are expected to perform at the Circus Maximus in Rome on Saturday, July 9th. Photo by Marco BERTORELLO / AFP

But, despite pleas to postpone the event, it is likely that Maneskin’s concert will take place as scheduled.

Alessandro Onorato, Rome’s Tourism Councillor, said that rescheduling is “out of question” and that “all recommendations from the local medical authorities will be adopted” with the help of the event’s organisers and staff on the ground.

At the time of writing, there is also no indication that the Italian government will consider postponing other major live events scheduled to take place in the coming weeks, though the situation is evolving rapidly and a U-turn on previous dispositions can’t be ruled out.

READ ALSO: At a glance: What are the Covid-19 rules in Italy now?

On this note, it is worth mentioning that Italy has now scrapped all of its former Covid measures except the requirement to wear FFP2 face masks on public transport (though not on planes) and in healthcare settings.

The use of face coverings is, however, still recommended in all crowded areas, including outdoors – exactly the point that leading Italian doctors are stressing in the hope that live events will not lead to large-scale infection.

Antonio Magi, President of Rome’s OMCEO (College of Doctors, Surgeons and Dentists), said: “Our advice is to wear FFP2 masks […] in high-risk situations.”

“I hope that young people will heed our recommendations and think about the health risks that their parents or grandparents might be exposed to after the event [they attend].”