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Italy reports one of Europe’s worst economic slumps in 2020

Italy has reported its biggest contraction in GDP since the end of World War II.

Italy reports one of Europe's worst economic slumps in 2020
Coronavirus restrictions in the last quarter of 2020 hit businesses particularly hard. Photo: AFP

Italy's virus-stricken economy shrank by 8.9 percent last year, national statistics office Istat said on Tuesday.

The figure is a first estimate, subject to revision, which is slightly more optimistic than what had been forecast by the Bank of Italy and the
International Monetary Fund. 

Both had predicted a 9.2-percent annual fall in gross domestic product (GDP).

But it is still one of the worst in Europe, compared with a fall of 5.0 percent in Germany and 8.3 percent in France.

Spain's economy did worse, with a drop of 11 percent.

Things were particularly bad for Italy in the last quarter, when GDP shrank by 2.0 percent compared to the previous three months.

The economy was hit by a new round of restrictions introduced to combat the second wave of coronavirus later in the year, Istat noted.

 

More than 420,000 jobs were lost in Italy between February and December, including 101,000 just in the month of December.

The slump also aggravated a long-existing gender gap in the labour market.

In December alone, 99,000 women lost their employment, versus only 2,000 men, Istat figures showed.

READ ALSO: Italy plans 'housewife bonus' to get more women into work

Fewer than half of working-age Italian women are in employment, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, even though women make up more than half of all Italians getting a bachelor's degree or PhD.

Economists say women in Italy have been disproportionately hit by job losses as they more often have insecure positions in service industries, such as in tourism or catering, which have been particularly badly hit by the coronavirus pandemic.

While manufacturing is one sector that has held up well in Italy, the economy is heavily reliant on tourism.

Italy, the eurozone's third largest economy, was the first European country hit by the pandemic.

In March 2020, it was also the first country in Europe to go into a national lockdown, with devastating economic consequences.

The outlook for Italy's economy in 2021 is uncertain amid political turmoil and delays to the vaccination rollout.

The country remains without a government after talks over the weekend failed.

Photo: AFP

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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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