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Poverty rises to 15-year high in Italy amid coronavirus crisis

Poverty rates in Italy, whose economy has been battered by the coronavirus pandemic, rose last year to the highest level since records began in 2005, official data showed on Thursday.

Poverty rises to 15-year high in Italy amid coronavirus crisis
A man wearing a face mask walks past a closed shop in Rome. Photo: Filippo Monteforte/AFP

The ranks of people in absolute poverty swelled by more than one million in 2020, to 5.6 million, out of a total population of around 60 million.

The number of households viewed as poor – where they cannot afford basic living necessities, including food – rose from 1.7 to 2 million, Italian statistics office Istat said.

In percentage terms, 9.4 per cent of individuals and 7.7 per cent of households were classed as poor – the highest level since the data series began.

In 2005, only three to four percent of Italian households and individuals were in absolute poverty, Istat said. The rate jumped after 2011, when Italy suffered a major debt crisis, and has remained relatively high since then.

Istat also said that average monthly household spending fell in 2020 to 2,328 euros ($2,800), down by 9.1 per cent compared with 2019, to the lowest value since 2000.

The statistics body reported that Italy’s economy shrunk by 8.9% in 2020. It is 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 fared even worse, with a drop of 11 percent.

Last year, Italy was the first country in Europe to be overwhelmed by the coronavirus pandemic. 

To date, Covid-19 has killed almost 100,000 people in Italy and has caused the worst recession the country has seen since World War II.

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Over the course of 2020, gross domestic product (GDP) was down by nearly nine per cent and nearly 450,000 people – mostly women, younger workers and the self-employed – lost their jobs.

This has further exacerbated the gender gap in Italy’s labour market – in December 2020, 99,000 women lost their employment, versus only 2,000 men, Istat figures showed.

It’s hoped the outlook for Italy’s economy will improve following the appointment of Prime Minister, Mario Draghi.

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TRAVEL NEWS

Covid face mask rule on flights in Europe set to be eased

The mandatory EU-wide mask requirement for air travel is set to be dropped from Monday, May 16th, but airlines may still require passengers to wear masks on some or all flights

Covid face mask rule on flights in Europe set to be eased

Europe-wide facemask rules on flights are set to be ditched as early as next week in light of new recommendations from health and air safety experts.

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) dropped recommendations for mandatory mask-wearing in airports and during flights in updated Covid-19 safety measures for travel issued on Wednesday, May 11th.

The new rules are expected to be rolled out from Monday, May 16th, but airlines may still continue to require the wearing of masks on some or all of flights. And the updated health safety measures still say that wearing a face mask remains one of the best ways to protect against the transmission of the virus.

The joint EASA/ECDC statement reminded travellers that masks may still be required on flights to destinations in certain countries that still require the wearing of masks on public transport and in transport hubs.

It also recommends that vulnerable passengers should continue to wear a face mask regardless of the rules, ideally an FFP2/N95/KN95 type mask which offers a higher level of protection than a standard surgical mask.

“From next week, face masks will no longer need to be mandatory in air travel in all cases, broadly aligning with the changing requirements of national authorities across Europe for public transport,” EASA executive director Patrick Ky said in the statement. 

“For passengers and air crews, this is a big step forward in the normalisation of air travel. Passengers should however behave responsibly and respect the choices of others around them. And a passenger who is coughing and sneezing should strongly consider wearing a face mask, for the reassurance of those seated nearby.”  

ECDC director Andrea Ammon added: “The development and continuous updates to the Aviation Health Safety Protocol in light of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic have given travellers and aviation personnel better knowledge of the risks of transmission of SARS-CoV-2 and its variants. 

“While risks do remain, we have seen that non-pharmaceutical interventions and vaccines have allowed our lives to begin to return to normal. 

“While mandatory mask-wearing in all situations is no longer recommended, it is important to be mindful that together with physical distancing and good hand hygiene it is one of the best methods of reducing transmission. 

“The rules and requirements of departure and destination states should be respected and applied consistently, and travel operators should take care to inform passengers of any required measures in a timely manner.”

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