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Italy’s low birth rate ‘plunging further due to coronavirus crisis’

The coronavirus crisis has hit Italy's already historically-low birth rate, new projections from the national statistics agency reveal.

Italy's low birth rate 'plunging further due to coronavirus crisis'
Fewer babies are expected to be born next year as Italy's economy suffers due to Covid-19. AFP
Italy had last year already recorded its lowest number of births for 150 years, at 420,000.
 
This could fall to 408,000 in 2020 and 393,000 in 2021, according to Istat.
 
The projections were presented to lawmakers on Tuesday by Istat head Gian Carlo Blangiardo.
 
“The climate of fear and uncertainty and the growing difficulties linked to employment and income generated by recent events will have a negative impact on Italian couples' fertility decisions,” he said.
 
“The demographic recession that has hit Italy since 2015 is significant and translates into a real collapse that has no equivalent in Italian history,
except if we go back to 1917-18, with World War I and the dramatic effects of the Spanish flu,” Blangiardo continued
 
 
Women and young people have been particularly badly affected by the crisis caused by coronavirus, which first hit Italy earlier this year, sparking an economically crippling national lockdown.
 
Employment among women fell by 1.9 percent between February and September this year, compared to 1.1 percent for men, as people were more likely to lose their jobs during lockdown and see a slower recovery, according to Istat.
 
It warned that the crisis was “amplifying existing inequalities in the labour market”.
 
The pandemic destroyed 80 percent of jobs gained by women since the financial crisis of 2008.
 
Between 2008 and 2019, Italy recorded an extra 602,000 jobs held by women. But it only took three months between April and June this year to lose 470,000
of them.
 
 
Istat found women are more likely to work in low-paid jobs in the service sector – which has been hit particularly hard by the crisis.
 
The hospitality industry in particular is still suffering, as a result of a nationwide night curfew and early closing for bars and restaurants introduced to stem a new wave of infections, while even tighter restrictions are in place in the regions most at risk.
 
In Italy, only half of women work, compared to 73 percent in Germany, 62 percent in France and 58 percent in Spain. Only Greece has a worst female employment level in Europe, at just 47 percent.
 
Italy has introduced various measures in recent years aimed at countering the chronically low birth rate, believed to be caused by the country's long-standing economic problems.
 
In the 2020 budget, ministers announced more funding for childcare and increased mandatory paternity leave to ten days.

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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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