19 unforgettable photos from a year of lockdowns in Italy

The anniversary of Italy’s strict nationwide coronavirus lockdown comes as the country is considering new measures and the death toll hits 100,000.

19 unforgettable photos from a year of lockdowns in Italy
Photo: Alberto PIZZOLI/AFP

On March 9th 2020, Italy became the first country other than China to declare a nationwide coronavirus lockdown.

Former Italian prime minister Giuseppe Conte made the announcement in a late-night televised address as the coronavirus crisis, which suddenly exploded in the north of the country in late February, was quickly worsening.

Several northern Italian regions had already been placed under lockdown on March 7th, and Italy had already shut down schools and museums in response to the crisis.

The strict lockdown in Italy lasted almost three months.

While all non-essential businesses were shut down and police patrols instructed people to remain indoors, masks were not yet mandatory or even recommended for most people as the disease which came to be called Covid-19 was still little understood.

READ ALSO: Eight things the year-long Covid crisis has taught us about Italy

On the day Italy’s first lockdown was announced, the number of known coronavirus infections in Italy was around 8,000 and the death toll was 463.

A year later, Italy has just passed the grim milestone of 100,000 deaths and there have been more than three million confirmed cases in the country.

Italy has not declared another nationwide lockdown. The country has instead been under a tiered system of regional rules since November.

However, the government is this week considering a second nationwide lockdown, potentially of 3-4 weeks, or other tightened measures as cases are now rising sharply again in the country.

READ ALSO: Lockdown by next week? These are the new Covid restrictions Italy is considering 

Experts warn that a third wave of infections in Italy is now being fuelled by more infectious new strains of the virus.

A potential second lockdown is a prospect no one will relish, with last year’s closure still fresh in our memories.

Here’s a look back at some of the most striking and unforgettable images we’ve published on The Local during the past year of reporting on lockdowns and other restrictions.

Italian police officers patrol the road into the small northern Italian town of Codogno on February 23, 2020, after it became the centre of a new coronavirus outbreak and worldwide fears over the epidemic spiralled. (Photo by Miguel MEDINA/AFP)

READ ALSO: Codogno one year on: How is the first Italian town hit by coronavirus faring?

A picture taken on March 8, 2020 shows an empty road leading to Milan’s Linate Airport, after millions of people were placed under forced quarantine in northern Italy. The government approved drastic measures in an attempt to halt the spread of the coronavirus. (Photo by Piero CRUCIATTI/AFP)

Residents line up at a safety distance as they wait to shop at a supermarket near Milan on March 11, 2020 – a day after Italy imposed unprecedented national restrictions on 60 million people. (Photo by Miguel MEDINA AFP)
A man wearing a face mask walks by the Spanish Steps at Rome’s deserted Piazza di Spagna on March 12, 2020, after Italy shut all stores except for pharmacies and food shops in a desperate bid to halt the spread of coronavirus. (Photo by Alberto PIZZOLI / AFP)
A municipal worker sprays disinfectant around the Rialto Bridge in Venice on March 13th, 2020. (Photo by MARCO SABADIN / AFP)
Pope Francis prays in an empty St. Peter’s Square in the Vatican on March 27th. (Photo by Yara NARDI/POOL/AFP)
A man walks his dog in front of the Colosseum in central Rome on April 3, 2020, during the ongoing coroanvirus lockdown. (Photo by Filippo MONTEFORTE / AFP)
A resident uses pot lids to join in a “noise flash mob” in Rome, aimed at breaking the city’s silence during lockdown. (Photo by Andreas SOLARO/AFP)
The waters of Venice canals turned clear during lockdown as a result of the stoppage of motorboat traffic. (Photo by ANDREA PATTARO/AFP)

MORE PHOTOS:Silent squares and clear waters as Venice stands empty

Girls play tennis on the rooftops of their apartment buildings in Liguria on April 19, 2020. (Photo by MARCO BERTORELLO/AFP)
Residents display Italian flags in the Garbatella district of Rome on April 25, 2020 during a Liberation Day musical flashmob, with people singing Italian partisan song ‘Bella Ciao’ from their windows and balconies. (Photo by Tiziana FABI / AFP)
A child rides a scooter as grass is seen growing between cobblestones in Rome’s Piazza Navona on April 29, 2020 during the country’s ongoing lockdown. (Photo by Andreas SOLARO / AFP)
A woman waves the Italian flag on May 4, 2020 in Milan as Italy starts to ease its lockdown – the world’s longest at this point. (Photo by Miguel MEDINA / AFP)
This photo taken on June 25, 2020 shows Italian riot police standing guard below apartment buildings in Mondragone, southern Italy, placed back under a local lockdown due to an outbreak of coronavirus infections, triggering protests and clashes between the residents and other locals. (Photo by STRINGER/ANSA/AFP)
Gondoliers and customers wear masks in Venice on June 12, 2020 as the country eases its lockdown to allow summer tourism. (Photo by ANDREA PATTARO/AFP)

A waiter in Florence passes a glass of wine into a building through a buchetta del vino, or wine window – a Renaissance-era tradition revived during lockdown. (Photo by Tiziana FABI / AFP)
Two 12-year-old students sit outside their school in Turin in November 2020, in protest against closures amid renewed coronavirus restrictions. (Photo by Miguel MEDINA / AFP)
Military vehicles patrol Rome’s central Piazza del Popolo on December 31, 2020, as a 10pm-7am curfew is implemented as part of a raft of temporary lockdown measures, intended to ward off a third wave of coronanvirus infections. (Photo by Tiziana FABI/AFP)
A Venetian resident wearing a carnival costume parades at St. Mark’s Square in Venice on February 16, 2021, despite the carnival officiallu being cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic. (Photo by François-Xavier MARIT/AFP)

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Italy’s deputy health minister under fire for questioning Covid vaccines

Opposition leaders called for health undersecretary Marcello Gemmato to resign on Tuesday after the official said he was not "for or against" vaccines.

Italy's deputy health minister under fire for questioning Covid vaccines

Gemmato, a trained pharmacist and member of Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni’s far-right Brothers of Italy party, made the remark during an appearance on the political talkshow ReStart on Rai 2 on Monday evening.

READ ALSO: Covid vaccines halved Italy’s death toll, study finds

In a widely-shared clip, the official criticises the previous government’s approach to the Covid pandemic, claiming that for a large part of the crisis Italy had the highest death rate and third highest ‘lethality’ rate (the proportion of Covid patients who died of the disease).

When journalist Aldo Cazzullo interjects to ask whether the toll would have been higher without vaccines, Gemmato responds: “that’s what you say,” and claimed: “We do not have the reverse burden of proof.”

The undersecretary goes on to say that he won’t “fall into the trap of taking a side for or against vaccines”.

After Gemmato’s comments, the president of Italy’s National Federation of Medical Guilds, Filippo Anelli, stressed that official figures showed the Italian vaccination campaign had already prevented some 150,000 deaths, slashing the country’s potential death toll by almost half.

Vaccines also prevented eight million cases of Covid-19, over 500,000 hospitalisations, and more than 55,000 admissions to intensive care, according to a report from Italy’s national health institute (ISS) in April 2021.

Gemmato’s comments provoked calls for him to step down, including from the head of the centre-left Democratic Party, Enrico Letta.

“A health undersecretary who doesn’t take his distance from no-vaxxers is certainly in the wrong job” wrote the leader of the centrist party Action, Carlo Calenda, on Twitter.

Infectious disease expert Matteo Bassetti of Genoa’s San Martino clinic also expressed shock.

“How is it possible to say that there is no scientific proof that vaccines have helped save the lives of millions of people? You just have to read the scientific literature,” Bassetti tweeted. 

In response to the backlash, Gemmato on Tuesday put out a statement saying he believes “vaccines are precious weapons against Covid” and claiming that his words were taken out of context and misused against him.

The Brothers of Italy party was harshly critical of the previous government’s approach to handling the Covid crisis, accusing the former government of using the pandemic as an excuse to “limit freedom” through its use of the ‘green pass’, a proof of vaccination required to access public spaces. 

But since coming into power, Meloni appears to have significantly softened her stance.

Her appointee for health minister, Orazio Schillaci, is a medical doctor who formed part of the team advising the Draghi administration on its handling of the pandemic.

Schillaci, a former dean of the Faculty of Medicine and Surgery at Rome’s Tor Vergata University, has described the former government’s green pass scheme as an “indispensable tool for guaranteeing safety in university classrooms”.

Speaking at a session of the G20 on Tuesday, Meloni referenced the role of vaccines in bringing an end to the Covid pandemic.

“Thanks to the extraordinary work of health personnel, vaccines, prevention, and the accountability of citizens, life has gradually returned to normal,’ the prime minister said in a speech.