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COVID-19

How authorities are battling to keep Italians at home

Confined to their homes for over a week, some Italians are getting restless. More than 53,000 people have been fined for flouting the rules, as the government fires on all cylinders, hoping to convince them to stay at home.

How authorities are battling to keep Italians at home
A man walks his dog as a car of the Italian National police patrols on March 19, 2020 in Rome during the lockdown within the new coronavirus pandemic: AFP

According to the decree announced by Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte on March 9, outings are only allowed for professional, health or food shopping reasons. Offenders can be imprisoned for up to three months or fined up to 206 euros ($220).

READ ALSO: More than 50,000 people in Italy charged with breaking quarantine rules

Here is a non-exhaustive list of the means used by Italian authorities to ensure compliance with its measures to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

Fear of police

Roadblocks and street corner checks: the police are everywhere and carry out tens of thousands of checks every day to make sure that all trips outside are justified. Every person leaving his or her home must be in possession of a sworn statement explaining the reason, which must be legitimate.

The number of controls increases every day: 173,000 on Monday, 187,000 on Tuesday, 200,000 on Wednesday and over that number on Thursday. These police controls have resulted in 8,100, 8,300, 8,500 and 9,500 write-ups, respectively.

Media blitz

In the media and on social networks, the government is hammering home a very simple slogan: “Io resto a casa” (“I'm staying at home”).

The slogan is written everywhere: in bright letters on the façade of the Pirellone, the famous skyscraper in Milan, on television ads, and also as a hashtag on the accounts of politicians and celebrities from the world of music, cinema and sport.

Many celebrities have filmed — from home — short spots aired on television encouraging people to stay inside.

In one, popular comedian Fiorello reclines on a red sofa, asking “Why don't we stay at home?”

“What's all this about going out and getting a drink? What a lousy thing,” he says. “Stay at home, it's better. It's so nice on the couch!”

Drones

Several municipalities have opted for drones to spot Sunday strollers or the emergence of crowds. The mayor of Conegliano in the northeastern region of Veneto contracted with a private company to begin flying  drones starting on Saturday over the area's steep vineyard-covered hills, where the famous Prosecco is produced.

“I still see too many people who don't respect the decree,” Mayor Fabio Chies told the Ansa news agency. “Around our municipality there is a 25 square kilometre area of hills that we can't patrol.”

Parks and gardens closed

A policewoman from Rome, checks that the entrance to the park of Villa Pamphili is closed, after the mayor's order to close all the parks in Rome to avoid crowds of people that may adversely affect the defence of  COVID-19. March 14, 2020: AFP

Many municipalities have prohibited access to green space. Parks are closed in Milan, Naples, and Rome. In some cities, such as Padua, even walks have been banned. 

Rome Mayor Virginia Raggi posted an outraged video on Friday on Facebook about people in La Caffarella park continuing to act as if they were not under lockdown.

“People are sunbathing, walking with friends,” she said. “Either we all understand that we have to control ourselves, or the army will have to intervene… because we have to stop this pandemic.”

Bring in the army?

According to Italian media reports, the government is seriously considering using the military to enforce restrictions on movement. Il Corriere della Sera daily reported that authorities were considering bringing in 17,000 soldiers to help keep people inside. Such reinforcements would be in addition to the 7,000 soldiers already patrolling certain sensitive areas, such as government
buildings and tourist sites.

COVID-19

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].”

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