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Venice slowly comes back to life under local ‘soft lockdown’ rules

The canal city of Venice slowly stirred back to life this week as some shops reopened and residents tentatively ventured outside for a jog or stroll - all in masks, and keeping a safe distance from others.

Venice slowly comes back to life under local 'soft lockdown' rules
Central Venice under lockdown. Photo: Andrea Pattaro/AFP

Under its so-called “soft lockdown” rules, the Veneto region, of which Venice is the capital, has allowed stores of all types to open for two days a week.

Italy's national government on Tuesday allowed some businesses, such as bookshops and children's clothing stores, to reopen across the country – the first easing of national lockdown rules in place since March 10th.

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However, some of Italy's regions, including Lombardy, chose to keep their own tougher rules in place and refused to allow shops to open before May 3rd.

The Veneto region has moved in the opposiite direction, relaxing some of its stricter measures on Monday.

It has also ruled that residents can go out for one hour of exercise per day, staying within 200 metres of their homes. 

Open-air markets are allowed to reopen.

Masks and gloves must be worn by anyone leaving the house, and anyone with a temperature above 37.5 remains forbidden to go out.

IN PHOTOS: Silent squares and clear waters as Venice stands empty

In Veneto, the traditional picnics will be allowed on the upcoming national holidays, on April 25 and May 1, “but only on private property and with family members,” Regional President Luca Zaia said.

“It is an act of trust towards the Venetians,” he said at a press conference on Monday.

Photo: AFP

But without the usual crowds of tourists and the water taxis racing through the Grand Canal, the city remained strangely quiet.

The softened restrictions in Veneto could be an indicator of what may happen across Italy under the planned “phase two” of lockdown.

READ ALSO: When will Italy's lockdown 'phase two' begin and what will it involve?

Following the announcement, Zaia later struck a cautious tone.

“The tragedy is not over, and I am very worried that some people might think that it is,” he warned on Monday, reports Italy's Il Corriere newspaper.

Veneto is the region under the greatest pressure from politicians and business groups to move into “phase two”, Il Corriere writes, along with Liguria, which is considering allowing contruction work to continue 

Tourist havens such as Venice have been hit particularly hard financially by the coronavirus crisis.

The nearby northern regions of Lombard and Piedmont meanwhile have conversely been refusing to allow any shops to open, and implementing tougher controls.

However, Lombardy's governor in an apparent change of heart on Thursday said that Italy should now start getting back to work.

Photo: AFP

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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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