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Home by 10pm or midnight? Italy considers relaxing its curfew from next week

As the Italian government begins to ease coronavirus restrictions, one measure still hotly disputed is the nightly 10pm curfew. Could it be pushed back next week? Here's what we know so far.

Home by 10pm or midnight? Italy considers relaxing its curfew from next week
Will the Italian government relax the current curfew of 10pm? (Photo by Miguel MEDINA / AFP)

The political debate continues about the nightly ban on movement between 10pm and 5am, especially since restaurants were allowed to re-open for dinner in low-risk yellow zones.

A change to the measure might come into force as early as next week, and could see the curfew pushed back to 11pm or midnight. Or, if some politicians get their way, it could even be scrapped altogether ahead of the summer season.

READ MORE: Quarantine, curfew and weddings: What rules will Italy relax next?

So who’s for and against the change?

Broadly, the right-wing League and its supporters are pushing for the curfew to be relaxed or scrapped.

Though not ruling it out, Health Minister Roberto Speranza is taking a more cautious view, calling for a more gradual approach based on the latest data.

Italy’s Health Minister Roberto Speranza isn’t against relaxing the curfew, but urges caution. (Photo: POOL / AFP)

It’s another tug of war between boosting the economy and protecting public health.

“Re-openings, re-openings, re-openings,” urged League leader Matteo Salvini. “Back to work, day and night and without curfew, trusting the Italians.” 

Others are also for easing measures without scrapping them altogether.

Friuli Venezia-Giulia’s governor Massimiliano Fedriga has called for a more relaxed curfew of 11pm to 5am. Interior Ministry undersecretary Carlo Sibilia, on the other hand, is in favour of starting the curfew at midnight.

READ MORE: What will Italy’s coronavirus rules be for summer 2021?

Thinking of the summer season, Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio has also called for “lighter measures to attract tourists to Italy”.

Easing the curfew by an hour or two would surely make for a more a relaxed dining experience.

Any decision will depend on the latest weekly epidemiological data, released every Friday by Italy’s top health institute, the ISS. The figures have been slowly improving for several weeks now.

“Given that the choice comes down to politics, and given that Friday’s numbers will be used to make decisions, I believe that there is scope for a further extension of the time when movement is restricted,” commented the head of the government’s committee of scientific advisors, Franco Locatelli.

“As for whether it’s 11pm or midnight, that’s up to the government,” he told Italian TV channel Rai3 on Wednesday.

READ MORE: Will Italy relax the Covid mask-wearing rules this summer?

Other health experts have expressed concern about the talk of relaxing curfew. Massimo Galli, director of Infectious Diseases at Milan’s Sacco Hospital, told Rai3: “I realise that there are the needs of those who have their main economic activity in the evening and are not able to survive, but that’s another matter from a strictly epidemiological point of view.”

He conceded that some contact is inevitable in order to keep the country moving, but there had to be sacrifice or “downsizing” somewhere.

It’s a sentiment echoed by Andrea Crisanti, director of the Department of Microbiology at the University of Padua: “The curfew reduces the likelihood of people meeting each other and therefore transmitting the virus,” he told TV news programme LA7.

READ ALSO: Who is eligible for a Covid-19 vaccine in your region of Italy?

France recently announced plans to phase out its curfew by the end of June, while Spain scrapped its curfew altogether this week – prompting street parties and a rebuke from the government.

Meanwhile Germany says people who have been fully vaccinated are exempt from curfew and other rules.

Italy’s government is expected to announce a decision after Prime Minister Mario Draghi next meets with the cabinet on Monday May 17th, making Tuesday May 18th the earliest date that the curfew could change.

Monday’s meeting is also expected to result in new plans for the reopening of travel, indoor dining, gyms, shopping centres and other businesses over the coming weeks.

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ITALIAN POLITICS

Italian government rocked by Five Star party split

Italy’s government was plunged into turmoil on Tuesday as foreign minister Luigi Di Maio announced he was leaving his party to start a breakaway group.

Italian government rocked by Five Star party split

Di Maio said his decision to leave the Five Star Movement (M5S) – the party he once led – was due to its “ambiguity” over Italy’s support of Ukraine following Russia’s invasion.

He accused the party’s current leader, former prime minister Giuseppe Conte, of undermining the coalition government’s efforts to support Ukraine and weakening Italy’s position within the EU.

“Today’s is a difficult decision I never imagined I would have to take … but today I and lots of other colleagues and friends are leaving the Five Star Movement,” Di Maio told a press conference on Tuesday.

“We are leaving what tomorrow will no longer be the first political force in parliament.”

His announcement came after months of tensions within the party, which has lost most of the popular support that propelled it to power in 2018 and risks being wiped out in national elections due next year.

The split threatens to bring instability to Draghi’s multi-party government, formed in February 2021 after a political crisis toppled the previous coalition.

As many as 60 former Five Star lawmakers have already signed up to Di Maio’s new group, “Together for the Future”, media reports said.

Di Maio played a key role in the rise of the once anti-establishment M5S, but as Italy’s chief diplomat he has embraced Draghi’s more pro-European views.

READ ALSO: How the rebel Five Star Movement joined Italy’s establishment

Despite Italy’s long-standing political and economic ties with Russia, Draghi’s government has taken a strongly pro-NATO stance, sending weapons and cash to help Ukraine while supporting EU sanctions against Russia.

Di Maio backed the premier’s strong support for Ukraine following Russia’s invasion, including sending weapons for Kyiv to defend itself.

In this he has clashed with the head of Five Star, former premier Giuseppe Conte, who argues that Italy should focus on a diplomatic solution.

Di Maio attacked his former party without naming Conte, saying: “In these months, the main political force in parliament had the duty to support the diplomacy of the government and avoid ambiguity. But this was not the case,” he said.

Luigi Di Maio (R) applauds after Prime Minister Mario Draghi (L) addresses the Italian Senate on June 21st, 2022. Photo by Filippo MONTEFORTE / AFP

“In this historic moment, support of European and Atlanticist values cannot be a mistake,” he added.

The Five Star Movement, he said, had risked the stability of the government “just to try to regain a few percentage points, without even succeeding”.

But a majority of lawmakers – including from the Five Star Movement – backed Draghi’s approach in March and again in a Senate vote on Tuesday.

Draghi earlier on Tuesday made clear his course was set.

“Italy will continue to work with the European Union and with our G7 partners to support Ukraine, to seek peace, to overcome this crisis,” he told the Senate, with Di Maio at his side.

“This is the mandate the government has received from parliament, from you. This is the guide for our action.”

The Five Star Movement stormed to power in 2018 general elections after winning a third of the vote on an anti-establishment ticket, and stayed in office even after Draghi was parachuted in to lead Italy in February 2021.

But while it once threatened to upend the political order in Italy, defections, policy U-turns and dismal polling have left it struggling for relevance.

“Today ends the story of the Five Star Movement,” tweeted former premier Matteo Renzi, who brought down the last Conte government by withdrawing his support.

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