IN PHOTOS: Italy’s cities fall silent under new lockdown

The main streets and squares of Italy's biggest cities stood near empty on Monday as a new lockdown came into force.

IN PHOTOS: Italy's cities fall silent under new lockdown
The deserted Piazza di Spagna in Rome on Monday, as most of Italy went into lockdown. Photo: Andreas Solaro/AFP

Schools, restaurants, shops and museums closed across most of Italy on Monday as new rules were enforced amid a new wave of Covid-19 infections.

The whole country, with the exception of Sardinia, is under tough ‘red’ or ‘orange’ zone restrictions until at least April 6th.

IN MAPS: How Italy’s coronavirus zones change from Monday

Streets are almost empty in front of the Colosseum in central Rome on Monday. Photo: Andreas Solaro/AFP
Police carry out checks on drivers at Piazza Venezia in central Rome on Monday. Photo: Andreas Solaro/AFP

Despite the country’s immunisation programme recently gathering pace, authorities are concered abot surges in infections fuelled by a Covid-19 variant first detected in Britain.

The streets of central Rome were quiet Monday morning as the new restrictions took hold, which were sure to further bruise businesses already battered by a year of anti-virus measures.

“I didn’t expect it. We live from day to day,” said barista Ana Cedeno as she prepared take-out coffees for a few customers.

People wait outside a cafe for take-away drinks in Rome. Photo: Andreas Solaro/AFP
The owner of the Cuccagna restaurant in Rome displays a sign advising customers that it’s takeaway service only. Photo: Andreas Solaro/AFP

All non-essential shops were closed from Monday, including in Rome and Milan, with residents told to stay home except for work, health or other essential reasons.

Milan’s Piazza Duomo on Monday. Photo: Miguel Medina/AFP
Police officers stand at the entrance of Milan’s Galeria Vittorio Emanuele II shopping centre on Monday. Photo: Miguel Medina/AFP

New restrictions will be in place until at least Easter, when all of Italy would be under ‘red’ zone restrictions over the weekend of April 3-5, the prime minister’s office has confirmed.

The only exception to the restrictions is Sardinia, which is Italy’s only “white zone”.

The empty square in front of the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore in Bergamo’s “Citta Alta”.  Photo: Miguel Medina/AFP
Bergamo’s near-deserted “Citta Alta”. Photo: Miguel Medina/AFP

On Friday, Draghi thanked Italians for their “infinite patience” and said the new measures would be accompanied by fresh support for families and businesses.

But he acknowledged there would be “consequences for the education of children, for the economy and also for the psychological state of us all”.

The empty Piazza Navona in Rome. Photo: Andreas Solaro/AFP
The deserted Via del Corso in Rome. Photo: Andreas Solaro/AFP

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Former Italian PM faces investigation over Covid response

Italian prime minister Giuseppe Conte is set to undergo a judicial inquiry over claims his government's response to the Covid-19 outbreak in early 2020 was too slow.

Former Italian PM faces investigation over Covid response

Prosecutors in Bergamo, the northern city that was one of the epicentres of the coronavirus outbreak in Europe, targeted Conte after wrapping up their three-year inquiry, according to media reports.

Conte, now president of the populist Five Star movement, was prime minister from 2018 to 2021 and oversaw the initial measures taken to halt the spread of what would become a global pandemic.

Investigating magistrates suspect that Conte and his government underestimated the contagiousness of Covid-19 even though available data showed that cases were spreading rapidly in Bergamo and the surrounding region.

They note that in early March 2020 the government did not create a “red zone” in two areas hit hardest by the outbreak, Nembro and Alzano Lombardo, even though security forces were ready to isolate the zone from the rest of the country.

READ ALSO: ‘Not offensive’: Italian minister defends Covid testing rule for China arrivals

Red zones had already been decreed in late February for around a dozen other nearby municipalities including Codogno, the town where the initial Covid case was reportedly found.

Conte’s health minister Roberto Speranza as well as the president of the Lombardy region, Attilio Fontana, are also under investigation, the reports said.

Bergamo prosecutors allege that according to scientific experts, earlier quarantines could have saved thousands of lives.

Conte, quoted by Il Corriere della Sera and other media outlets, said he was “unworried” by the inquiry, saying his government had acted “with the utmost commitment and responsibility during one of the most difficult moments of our republic.”

READ ALSO: Italy’s constitutional court upholds Covid vaccine mandate as fines kick in

Similar cases have been lodged against officials elsewhere, alleging that authorities failed to act quickly enough against a virus that has killed an estimated 6.8 million people worldwide since early 2020.

In January, France’s top court threw out a case against former health minister Agnes Buzyn, a trained doctor, over her allegedly “endangering the lives of others” by initially playing down the severity of Covid-19.