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POLITICS

‘We’ve done our bit, now it’s up to you’: Italian govt tells its people as lockdown nears end

Italy's emergency response commissioner Domenico Arcuri begged Italians on Saturday not to lower their guards as the country prepares to ease the world's longest coronavirus lockdown.

'We've done our bit, now it's up to you': Italian govt tells its people as lockdown nears end
Photo: AFP

“On Monday, Phase Two begins. We have to be aware that it will be the start of an even bigger challenge,” Arcuri said.

After a two-month shut down to combat a virus that has killed over 28,000 people, Italians will be allowed to stroll in parks and visit relatives. Restaurants can open for takeout and wholesale stores can resume business.

Scientists will be closely monitoring the virus contagion rate as the lockdown lifts and Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte has said it may be reintroduced in locally if the numbers begin to rise significantly again.

Arcuri confirmed the “relative freedom” Italians were about to win could be taken away again for health reasons.

“We must maintain social distancing, maximum hygiene levels, and masks. We've done our bit to the best of our ability. From Monday, it's up to you,” he said at a press conference.

“I implore you, do not lower your guards.”

Some 150,000 people will have their blood tested next week for the new coronavirus as authorities attempt to get a clearer picture of its spread as the lockdown eases. Those tests were expected to begin Monday.

Arcuri said the government had also bought over five million swabs to be distributed to the regions.

Masks costing just 50 cents due to a cap set by the government would go on sale in 50,000 shops, from pharmacies to tobacconists, starting Monday. That figure would rise to 100,000 shops by mid month.

Italy would be producing four million masks a day by mid June, 25 million by mid July and 35 million by mid August, Arcuri said.

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ITALIAN ELECTIONS

Berlusconi to run for Senate in Italy’s elections

Scandal-plagued former premier Silvio Berlusconi said he plans to return to Italy's parliament in upcoming elections, almost a decade after being forced out over a conviction for tax fraud.

Berlusconi to run for Senate in Italy's elections

“I think that, in the end, I will be present myself as a candidate for the Senate, so that all these people who asked me will finally be happy,” the 85-year-old billionaire and media mogul told Rai radio on Wednesday.

After helping bring down Prime Minister Mario Draghi last month by withdrawing its support, Berlusconi’s centre-right Forza Italia party looks set to return to power in elections on September 25th.

It is part of a right-wing coalition led by Giorgia Meloni’s post-fascist Brothers of Italy, which includes Matteo Salvini’s anti-immigration League.

Berlusconi brushed off reports he is worried about the possibility of Meloni – whose motto is “God, country and family” – becoming prime minister.

Noting the agreement between the parties that whoever wins the most votes chooses the prime minister, he said: “If it is Giorgia, I am sure she will prove capable of the difficult task.”

READ ALSO: Italy’s hard right set for election victory after left-wing alliance collapses

But he urged voters to back his party as the moderate voice in the coalition, emphasising its European, Atlanticist stance.

“Every extra vote in Forza Italia will strengthen the moderate, centrist profile of the coalition,” he said in a separate interview published Wednesday in the Il Giornale newspaper.

League party leader Matteo Salvini (L), Fratelli d’Italia leader Giorgia Meloni and Forza Italia leader Silvio Berlusconi pictured in October 2021. The trio look set to take power following snap elections in September. Photo by CLAUDIO PERI / ANSA / AFP

Berlusconi was Italy’s prime minister three times in the 1990s and 2000s, but has dominated public life for far longer as head of a vast media and sports empire.

The Senate expelled him in November 2013 following his conviction for tax fraud, and he was banned from taking part in a general election for six years.

He was elected to the European Parliament in 2019, however, and threw his hat in the ring earlier this year to become Italy’s president — although his candidacy was predictably short-lived.

Berlusconi remains a hugely controversial figure  in Italy and embroiled in the many legal wrangles that have characterised his long career.

He remains on trial for allegedly paying guests to lie about his notorious “bunga-bunga” sex parties while prime minister.

Berlusconi has also suffered a string of health issues, some related to his hospitalisation for coronavirus in September 2020, after which he said he had almost died.

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