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Today in Italy: A roundup of the latest news on Tuesday

Clare Speak
Clare Speak - [email protected]
Today in Italy: A roundup of the latest news on Tuesday
Milan's San Raffaele Hospital. (Photo by Piero CRUCIATTI / AFP)

Italians increasingly in debt to pay for private healthcare, Italy's birth rate continues to drop, Ryanair CEO calls for Italian aviation agency head to resign, and more news from Italy on Tuesday.

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Italy's top story on Tuesday:

Hospital waiting lists were headline news again on Tuesday morning, with La Stampa reporting a survey by price comparison website Facile.it which showed nine million Italian patients had taken out loans to be able to afford to go private instead of waiting for care through the public system.

As waiting lists reportedly lengthen, 4.4 percent of all loans taken out in Italy were to pay for medical expenses, the survey found, and their total value had risen to more than a billion euros.

The highest amount was taken out in loans in southern Italian regions, it found, where inequalities in healthcare spending persist and many patients travel north for private treatment.

Many regional governments have announced further funding to help cut down waiting lists from April, according to media reports, with the Italian national health service reportedly facing issues exacerbated by the Covid pandemic and Italy's increasingly elderly population.

Italy's birth rate continues to drop

Italy's population shrank again in 2023, the latest provisional data from Italian statistics bureau Istat showed, with the number of babies being born at a near-record low and a growing number of Italians leaving the country.

Italy's birth rate stood at 379,000, or 6.4 per thousand people, according to Istat's annual report on demographic indicators published on Friday. In absolute terms this was 14,000 fewer births than in 2022, a drop of 3.6 percent, while the birth rate fell from 6.7 births per thousand people, Istat said.

The average number of children per woman in Italy fell from 1.24 in 2022 to 1.20 in 2023. The historical minimum is 1.19 children per woman, registered in 1995.

As of January 1, 2024, the resident population stood at just under 59 million, down 7,000 in a year. While 53,000 Italian citizens had emigrated abroad, Italy had 326,000 new foreign residents, with the population growing slightly in northern Italy and shrinking in the south.

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Ryanair CEO calls for head of Italy's aviation agency to resign

Ryanair’s CEO Michael O’Leary slammed comments made by ENAC president Pierluigi Di Palma as "stupid and embarrassing" and called for him to step down amid an ongoing row over Ryanair's pricing and market share in Italy.

Commenting on recent flight price rises, Di Palma had said: "It is clear that low cost companies practically do not exist anymore... Now there are companies like Ryanair that control 51 percent of the Italian market," reported financial newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore.

He referred to a "situation of oligopoly" and a "context of little supply and more demand."

Di Palma and O'Leary have been at loggerheads amid investigations into and attempts to curb rising flight prices in Italy, particularly between the islands of Sicily and Sardinia and the mainland.

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Elon Musk says Telecom Italia blocking high-speed internet rollout

US-based satellite internet provider Starlink filed a complaint late last week claiming Italy's largest phone carrier was obstructing its rollout of high-speed internet in Italy, with possible repercussions for services across southern Europe and north Africa.

In its complaint to Italy’s communications watchdog and business ministry, Starlink, which is controlled by Musk’s SpaceX, claimed that Telecom Italia SpA had for months failed to comply with regulations requiring it to share spectrum data in order to prevent frequency interferences with its equipment, Bloomberg News reported.

While Starlink said this was severely slowing deployment of new gateway equipment, Telecom Italia rejected what it described as a partial reconstruction of facts that didn’t take into account ongoing discussions.

Starlink urged Italy’s authorities to push Telecom Italia to cooperate, saying it would be forced to shift investments from Italy to other European countries otherwise and suggesting the issue could cause service outages in parts of southern Europe and north Africa that are partially powered by equipment located in Italy.

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