Flour, mozzarella, and hair dye: Here’s what Italians are buying under lockdown

Italian shopping habits have changed dramatically since the coronavirus outbreak began and quarantine measures were enforced, supermarket data shows.

Flour, mozzarella, and hair dye: Here's what Italians are buying under lockdown
A masked shopper leave an Italian supermarket. Photo: AFP

Under lockdown, people across Italy are apparently unleashing their inner pizzaiolo or fornaio (pizza chef or baker) and making their own bread, pizza and cakes at home – at least according to the latest supermarket sales figures.

Sales of flour rose by 205 percent and brewer's yeast by 114 percent in March, according to monthly figures from the Coop supermarket's research office.

Photo: AFP

Eggs were also in high demand, rising by 58 percent, while sales of sugar, jams and preserves almost doubled.

And sales of mozzarella cheese have shot up by 125 percent.

Denied the usual trips to the hairdresser, Italians are also turning to the DIY option – sales of home hair dye kits rose by 135 percent.

Alcohol sales rose less dramatically. Shoppers bought 31 percent more wine than usual in March, 13 percent more aperitifs, and nine percent more beer.

Predictably, disinfectant seems to be the thing Italians are now buying the most of.

Sales of Amuchina gel, the country's most popular disinfectant brand, were up by 398 percent compared to the same period a year ago. During the first three weeks of the outbreak, Amuchina gel sales were as much as 561 percent higher than usual.

With hand sanitser hard to find, sales of dinisnfectant wipes also shot up by 455 percent.

Data shows a spike in the number of people shopping when the outbreak began, in the days before the lockdown was imposed – although there wasn't as much of the panic buying seen in the UK and Australia.

Data shows shopping trips fell by 85 percent in Italy in March. Graph. Google COVID-19 Community Mobility Report.

While sales of pasta and rice doubled in the first weeks of the outbreak, and olive oil rose by 35 percent, people were stocking up less on these items by the end of the month – though more of each was still being sold than usual.

And there are reports of a “boom” in online grocery shopping in Italy, where it was previously almost unheard of. Online orders have risen by 81 percent under lockdown.

Italian authorities continue to urge people to abandon their usual habit of shopping daily, and to instead stock up just once a week.

READ ALSO: 'We're stressed out': Supermarket workers in Italy fear exposure to coronavirus

Only one person per family is supposed to visit the shops, and many regional authorities or individual supermarkets now require all customers to wear masks.

The national government has said supermarkets, food shops and pharmacies will remain open as normal in Italy throughout the lockdown.

Many local authorities around Italy have ordered supermarkets to close over Easter, fearing that crowds of shoppers will descend over the holidays.

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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].”