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LIFE IN ITALY

What you need to know about Italy’s ‘Relaunch Decree’

The Italian government has pledged €55 billion in stimulus measures to help rebuild Italy as it slowly exits the coronavirus crisis. Here are the key measures to know about in the 'Decreto Rilancio'.

What you need to know about Italy's 'Relaunch Decree'
Commuters in Venice, one of the tourist hotspots left deserted by Italy's coronavirus lockdown. Photo: Vincenzo Pinto/AFP

The 'Relaunch Decree' was approved by the cabinet on Wednesday night, though it still needs to go before parliament and may be subject to revisions.

Here are the main things the government wants to introduce: 

Tourism tax breaks

In what's been dubbed a 'holiday bonus', Italian households with a total annual income of €40,000 or less are eligible for up to €500 towards the cost of a stay in Italy.

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It will be up to hotels to provide 80 percent of the bonus by discounting their prices for eligible guests (and claiming it back as a tax credit), while holidaymakers must claim the remaining 20 percent as a tax deduction. Families can apply for up to €500, while couples are eligible for €300 and individuals for €150.

Meanwhile owners of hotels, B&Bs, campsites, beach resorts and other tourist accommodation will be exempt from part of their municipal property tax (IMU) this year. The government will also waive the occupancy taxes that usually apply to bars and restaurants with outdoor seating.

Faster benefit payouts

The government will streamline the payment of income support for those who have lost jobs or are self-employed, the decree says.

The National Social Security Institute (INPS) will handle claims for CIG unemployment benefits directly, aiming to cut the waiting time, and pay out 40 percent of the sum due within 15 days of receiving an application.

READ ALSO: Here's how to apply for Italy's 600-euro emergency bonus payment

Freelancers, seasonal workers and self-employed people will automatically receive another €600 for the month of April, while those in the most precarious situations will also be eligible to claim up to €1,000 for May.

Residency for foreign workers in key sectors

The government will temporarily regularize immigrants working as farm labourers or domestic helpers, allowing them to access health care and other services as legal residents of Italy.

READ MORE: Italy to grant residence to undocumented migrant workers during coronavirus crisis

Foreign citizens who are currently in Italy without valid papers can apply for a six-month residence permit exchangeable for a regular work permit once they're given an employment contract, while people working in these sectors “al nero” (under the table) can ask their employer to make their contract official, whether they're foreign or Italian nationals.

The government is offering financial support for those who take up the scheme: €400 for employers putting their workers on the books, and €160 for jobseekers claiming residence.

Bicycle bonus

As part of efforts to encourage people to use alternatives to public transport while the risk of transmitting the coronavirus is still high, the government has offered people who live in cities up to €500 towards the cost of a new bike, scooter, hoverboard or Segway.

READ MORE: Italy offers city dwellers up to €500 to buy a new bike

The scheme is open to anyone who lives in a town of 50,000 people or more, and will run until the end of 2020. The decree also promises funding for new cycle lanes.


Photo: Miguel Medina/AFP

Public transport refund

Commuters who bought a pass for public transport and were unable to use it during Italy's lockdown can request a refund, the decree says.

The refund will take the form of a voucher or an extension of the pass.

Bigger babysitter bonus

With schools closed until September, working parents can claim up to €1,200 towards the cost of child care (or more for key workers and low-income families), which can also be put towards summer camps. That's double the previous sum available.

Parents with children under 12 can also ask for extra family leave paid at 50 percent: 30 days instead of 15, though they must be taken by the end of July.

Meanwhile parents working in the private sector have the right to ask to work from home, provided at least one of their children is under 14 and that another parent isn't at home or receiving unemployment benefits. 


Photo: Marco Bertorello/AFP

School maintenance and extra teachers

The government has allocated €1.5 billion to Italian schools to hire an extra 16,000 teachers, as well as carrying out cleaning and renovation work in preparation for reopening.

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Schools and universities will also be expected to invest in personal protective equipment for students and teachers.

Tax breaks for businesses

Almost all businesses will be exempt from part of their regional corporation tax (IRAP) this year, while smaller companies will also benefit from discounted utility bills and tax credits to help pay rent.

The government also plans to create a fund to support small and medium enterprises, as well as offering incentives to those investing in companies impacted by the crisis.

Plastic and sugar taxes postponed

Plans to tax plastic and sugar have been postponed until at least January 2021, the government has confirmed.

READ MORE: Italy delays tax on plastic due to coronavirus crisis 

While the taxes had been due to come into force this year, manufacturers argued that they would hurt struggling producers and consumers.

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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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