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COVID-19

Italy seeks 60,000 volunteers to enforce coronavirus rules

Italian officials have proposed creating a 60,000-strong corps of volunteer "civic assistants" who would remind people of the need to observe measures against coronavirus infection as the country emerges from lockdown.

Italy seeks 60,000 volunteers to enforce coronavirus rules
People socializing outdoors in Rome. Photo: Filippo Monteforte/AFP

The force, to be drawn from among pensioners and the unemployed, is the brainchild of Regional Affairs Minister Francesco Boccia and Antonio Decaro, mayor of the southern city of Bari.

The civil protection unit, which manages the various volunteers helping to fight against the Covid-19 epidemic that has caused nearly 33,000 deaths in Italy, would be charged with the recruitment.

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They would answer questions and remind the public of social distancing rules, or the need to wear masks, in crowded areas such as beaches, parks and city streets.

The volunteers would not be able to fine people.

Decaro said Monday that some of these potential volunteers had already “helped deliver groceries or medicines to those who could not leave their homes during the crisis”.

“In this new phase, they will help control access to parks or markets, counting the number of people entering or leaving, or explaining the rules of access to beaches when they reopen,” Decaro, who is also president of the Association of Italian Municipalities, said in a statement.


Photo: Andreas Solaro/AFP

Some authorities said they welcomed the idea of more help in the aftermath of the coronavirus crisis as they struggle with crowd control at bars, cafes and beaches after two months of lockdown.

“Civic assistants can be useful,” said Paolo Truzu, mayor Sardinia's capital Cagliari, adding that he envisioned them helping on his city's beaches.

Others, however, scoffed at the idea.

READ ALSO: Italy begins nationwide blood tests to study coronavirus antibodies

“How can we think that 60,000 people found who knows where, trained who knows where will be going around Italy telling Italians what to do on the basis of rules that nobody understands?” asked former government minister Carlo Calenda, leader of the small centrist Azione party, on Twitter.

“Is this normal and legitimate in a democratic country?”

Giordano Masini, member of the pro-European Piu Europa (More Europe) party, said what Italy needed was more capable professionals.

“We need doctors, nurses, social workers, teachers, educated people,” Masini said.

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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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