Italy approves €5bn financial aid package for Covid-hit businesses

Italy approves €5bn financial aid package for Covid-hit businesses
Restaurants in Italy are to get compensation after being forced to close at 6pm. Photo: AFP
As restaurants, gyms, cinemas and other businesses have been partly or completely shut down by Italy's new coronavirus restrictions, the government said it put together a financial rescue package in a "crazy race against time".
The Italian government overnight on Tuesday approved a financial aid package for businesses and workers affected by the latest restrictions aimed at containing the spread of coronavirus.
 
“We have just passed the decree, which is worth a total of over five billion, that will be used to provide immediate resources for the benefit of the sectors penalized by the latest emergency restrictions,” said Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte at a press conference at Palazzo Chigi in the early hours of Wednesday morning.
 
He said the financial package was put together “in a crazy race against time.”
 
“I signed the decree at about one in the morning, only when we were sure that these resources were there.”
 
Restaurants, bars, cinemas, theatres, gyms, spas and other venues were closed or partially closed nationwide on Monday as Italy’s latest emergency decree came into force, with the closures set to have a knock-on effect on many other businesses and sectors.
 
 
Business owners demonstrate outside Milan city hall on October 27th, against measures taken by the government aimed at curbing the spread of Covid-19. Photo: Miguel Medina
 
Concerned business owners and employees have held demonstrations against the measures in recent days – though police chiefs say these protesters were not behind the vandalism and scenes of violence seen in some cities.
 
The amounts paid to businesses hit by the decree will be “significant”, said Italy’s Finance Minister Roberto Gualtieri, explaining that restaurants would get compensation of between 5,000 and 25,000 euros based on their usual turnover.
 
 
One billion euros is set aside for the culture and tourism sectors, with payments of 1,000 euros for self-employed entertainment workers and special tax allowances to be made for the tourism sector, reported Italian financial newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore.
 
Conte said the payments would be made “in mid-November” – first to those who had already applied to previous compensation schemes during lockdown in spring, and “immediately afterwards also to others.”
 
“We are making an incredible effort not to introduce new taxes. Already this is a great result. We want social peace,” Conte said.
 
The prime minister acknowledged criticism of the new measures, saying: “Our choices can be legitimately criticised, we are in a democracy. But I want to say that we have not made indiscriminate choices.”
 
“To prevent the curve from getting out of control, it is essential to reduce the main opportunities for socialising.”
 
“If we respect these measures, we have a good chance of facing December with some serenity, without a stressed health system,” he said.
 
 
The Italian public appeared to be split on Tuesday over whether the new measures were adequate, too strict, or not strict enough, according to the findings of a poll by SWG and TV news channel LA7.
 
Some 28 percent think the measures are adequate considering the current situation.
 
 
However 36 percent were in favour of even tougher rules, saying the latest restrictions are insufficient to contain the spread.
 
One in four Italians thought the rules were too strict.
 
The post-6pm closure of bars and restaurants was found to be especially unpopular: almost half (48%) said this rule was excessive, while 35% consider it adequate, and 17% insufficient.

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