Police tighten quarantine controls over Easter as Italians lower their guard

Police tighten quarantine controls over Easter as Italians lower their guard
Italian police check drivers' paperwork in central Rome on Wednesday. Photo: AFP
People in Italy have been warned that they must continue to follow quarantine rules amid fears that large numbers may attempt to travel over the Easter weekend.

Police in Italy are now tightening controls and increasing checks ahead of the Easter weekends,  with officials concerned that the slowing rate of infections and warmer weather will tempt Italians to flout the rules.

Cities includng Milan will increase the number of roadblocks in place this weekend, enforcing a travel ban preventing people from visiting relatives out of town or spending the Easter holiday at their second home.

UPDATED: What are Italy's coronavirus quarantine rules?

In the northern Lombardy region, hardest-hit by the coronavirus outbreak, traffic was up over 10 percent compared to a week ago. Local authorities described that as “alarming”.

Milan's mayor Beppe Sala said road blocks would be increased as a result.

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

Photo: AFP

Officials there fear a new wave of contagion could be triggered if people flout the rules, which include a total ban on leaving the house except to shop for essential food or medicine, or for work.

Travel between towns is only allowed for work or health reasons, or in emergency situations.

Police have been carrying ot a higher number of checks this week, with those found to be breaking the rules or making false declarations on their self-certification forms liable to be charged and fined up to 3,000 euros – or more in some regions.

The most serious offenders can even face lengthy prison terms.

While fewer new deaths and cases are being reported, the numbers remain high and officials have repeatedly warned the public not to let their guard down and to continue to follow quarantine rules.

Health officials warned this week that the outbreak appears to have peaked in some areas only because of the various closures and bans, which they insist must remain in place – perhaps until a vaccine is developed or some reliable tests can show who has immunity against the new disease.

“The numbers are less alarming, which should be of comfort but shouldn't make us lower our guard because this data is still alarming,” said Luca Richeldi, a pulmonology specialist on the government's Technical and Scientific Committee (CTS).

One month since the nationwide measures were announced, the government is looking at “Phase 2”

plans for gradually easing the lockdown – but the restrictions on movement are expected to remain in place for a long time yet.

READ ALSO: 'A summer without travel': How long will Italy's coronavirus lockdown 'phase two' last?

Leading Italian health expert Nino Cartabellotta said on Wednesday that for potentially looser measures to be implemented under “phase two” of quarantine, the increase in new cases would need to drop to below one percent.

Wednesday's increase in cases was 2.8 percent.

 
“The health and economic effects of a new rising curve would be disastrous,” he said.

The head of WHO Europe had the same message in a news conference on Wednesday.

“Now is not the time to relax measures,” said WHO regional director for Europe, Hans Kluge.

“It is the time to once again double and triple our collective efforts to drive towards suppression with the whole support of society.”

While fewer new deaths and cases are being reported, the numbers remain high and officials have repeatedly warned the public not to let their guard down and to continue to follow quarantine rules.


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