“It may be human and understandable to want to go out after two months, but we mustn't forget that we're still in the midst of Covid-19 and so people fuelling nightlife are betraying the sacrifices made by millions of Italians,” said the Regional Affairs minister Francesco Boccia.
In an interview with La Stampa newspaper published on Monday, he said that the cabinet would assess the latest coronavirus figures at the weekend before deciding whether the restrictions on interregional travel could be dropped as planned on June 3rd.
The government may yet decide to “take all the time needed” before lifting restrictions further, Boccia said.
While he specifically mentioned delaying travel between regions of Italy, he didn't say whether the government was considering postponing international travel to and from Italy, which is due to resume at the same time.
Boccia's comments come after streets and squares around Italy were pictured lined with people socializing after more than two months of lockdown with only housemates and family for company.
Last weekend was the first since Italy lifted its ban on seeing friends and reopened bars, prompting many to take advantage of their regained freedom.
Drinking spritzes in Rome. Photo: Filippo Monteforte/AFP
Several regional governors and mayors around Italy have threatened to re-close bars if people continue to ignore guidelines to remain at least a metre apart and wear a face mask in public.
If infections rise, “we'll close bars, restaurants, beaches and we'll lock ourselves back up again,” warned the president of the region of Veneto, Luca Zaia, who released a video on Sunday cautioning people about the potential consequences of socializing irresponsibly.
“I think convincing people is more effective than repression,” commented Attilio Fontana, the president of Italy's worst-affected region, Lombardy. “We need to make young people – and not so young people – understand that they have to hang in there for another few weeks, they need to understand that their behaviour is dangerous for them and the rest of the population.”
Regional governors, particularly in the north of Italy where Lombardy and other badly hit regions have faced restrictions longer than any other part of the country, were among those who pushed the national government to speed up its plans for exiting lockdown.
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Italy plans to lift restrictions on both interregional and international travel within the Schengen Area from June 3rd, the government announced last week, sooner than many expected – though regional affairs minister Boccia has already cautioned that only “low-risk” regions will be allowed to relax the rules.
The governor of Liguria, a popular summer destination for both domestic and international tourists, warned that limiting travel any longer was “unworkable and unthinkable”. Prolonging the restrictions would “kill the country and kill freedom”, Giovanni Toti said on Monday.
Italy's tourism industry, which accounts for 13 percent of GDP and hundreds of thousands of jobs, is hoping to start recovering some of its losses, with an estimated 300,000 bookings already made for June onwards.
In a bid to keep people behaving responsibly as Italy inches back towards normal life, Boccia said the government would seek 60,000 volunteers to patrol public spaces and remind people of social distancing guidelines – though the “civic assistants” wouldn't have any authority to hand out fines.