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COVID-19

‘It doesn’t add up’: Anger rises in Italy over new coronavirus red zones

As Italy's newly-designated coronavirus "red zones" braced on Thursday for a new lockdown, anger rose against the government amid a lack of clarity over how the zones were designated.

'It doesn't add up': Anger rises in Italy over new coronavirus red zones
Naples and the surrounding Campania region has been designated a lower-risk area, sparking anger from local officials. Photo: Carlo Hermann / AFP
“It's a slap in the face for Lombardy,” raged the region's president Attilio Fontana, a member of the far-right opposition League party, who has accused Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte of using out-of-date figures to designate the new risk zones.
 
Lombardy, which includes Milan, was designated “high-risk” on Wednesday, along with fellow northern regions Piedmont and Val d'Aosta, as well as Calabria in the south, under a new colour-coded scheme drawn up by Rome.
 
 
Southern regions Puglia and Sicily were designated orange, or medium-risk, and will also face further restrictions.
 
The rest of Italy was yellow, including the hard-hit region of Campania.
 
All of Italy is facing a new evening curfew from Friday.
 
There was widespread confusion and anger after Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte announced the classification on Wednesday night, with many wondering how regions with some of the lowest case numbers – Calabria and Valle d'Aosta – had ended up as red zones, while regions with many times more, including Campania, Lazio and Veneto were classed as only moderate risk.
 
 
The regional classification however isn't made on case numbers alone, but on a complex system of 21 criteria established by Italy's Higher Health Institute (ISS).
 
And with little official explanation given to the public as to how the system works, some critics insist the decision was a political one.
 
The opposition League party accused the centre-left government of locking down regions run by the opposition while going easy on those run by the left – insisting Campania, run by the Democratic Party (PD), should not be a yellow zone.
 
Valle d'Aosta President Erik Laveva told the regional assembly: “Yesterday I reiterated that it is important to have clarity about why we are in a red zone, in part to give clarity to the citizens.”
 
“Numbers are nice because they don't lend themselves to interpretation,” he added.
 
Calabria's acting governor, Nino Spirlì, said the region would challenge the government's decision to make it a red zone.

Some on the already quiet streets of Milan, Italy's financial and fashion capital, said a new regional lockdown would change little.
 
“My customers are very scared, very scared,” hairdresser Francesco Puccio told AFP. “Last week I only had two clients per day, sometimes even just one, so there's no real advantage for me in staying open. There's nobody out and about anymore, the offices are empty,” he said.
 
But anger and concern about the system was not confined to red zones.
 
Those in orange zones also questioned the fairness of the decisions, while some in yellow zones voiced concern that their hard-hit local areas required tougher rules.
 

Campania alone is currently reporting around 4,000 new cases per day, many of them concentrated in the city of Naples. However, the region was classified a lower-risk yellow zone.
 
Luigi de Magistris, the mayor of Naples complained that the region should be a “red” zone insisting hospitals were near collapse. He said the government's maths “does not add up”.
 
 
Piedmont head Alberto Cirio, from the centre-right Forza Italy party, also questioned why the decision over which regions to lock down “was taken based
on data which was at least 10 days old”.

 
 

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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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