Italy's booksellers and publishers' association warned on Tuesday that the country risks developing “cultural deserts” unless their industry is supported to deal with the consequences of the coronavirus shutdown.
With the future of many bookshops in doubt, the nation is on the brink of developing “cultural deserts, especially in the economically weaker areas of the country”, the association said.
It urged the government to extend a 500-euro “cultural bonus” programme, which is awarded to 18-year-olds upon graduation. They are meant to spend the money on “cultural pursuits”, including books.
Booksellers on Tuesday urged the government to extend that plan nationally to all age groups to save bookshops and support authors.
The publishers' and booksellers' group asked for a range of measures including tax deductions on the purchase of books, and improvements to the country's library system.
Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte last week allowed bookstores, among a short list of other businesses, to reopen after a six-week suspension of almost all business activity across Italy.
But the publishing industry association said the reopening has not spared booksellers the “most serious crisis in the post-war era”.
It said 64 percent of the country's publishers had either furloughed their workers or intended to do so.
But many industries are asking for extraordinary measures to keep them afloat after the painful economic shutdown.
Conte is set to announce this week which other shops and industries can resume operations when the current restrictions end on May 3rd.
Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte has warned that he will not be able to completely lift lockdown measures after this.
He indicated on Tuesday that Italians will probably have to put up with various forms of restrictions for some time to come.
“I would like to be able to say, let's open everything. Right away,” Conte wrote on Facebook.
“But such a decision would be irresponsible.”
Conte said he will spell out the details of the next stage of Italy's battle against outbreak as more data come in over the coming days.
He has convened a taskforce comprised of leading economists and health experts to decide on which measures can safely be lifted and when.
Italy has officially recorded 24,648 Covid-19 deaths as of Tuesday – second only to the United States.