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‘There’s nobody out and about’: Parts of Italy back under lockdown as new restrictions come in

Swathes of Italy returned to coronavirus lockdown on Friday as the resurgent pandemic continues to sweep through Europe.

'There's nobody out and about': Parts of Italy back under lockdown as new restrictions come in
Bars in Italy's new red zones closed to customers on Thursday night. Photo: AFP

Three regions declared coronavirus “red zones” in Italy's north, and Calabria in the country's “toe”, have shuttered non-essential businesses, in measures affecting 16 million people.

A further two southern regions, Puglia and Sicily, are under less stringent “orange zone” measures.
 
People in the highest-risk red and orange zones are told to stay within their comune, or municipality, and are only allowed to leave for work, study, health or other essential reasons, as Italy brings in the strictest measures since its two-month spring lockdown was eased.
 

In red zones, restrictions on movement resemble those imposed earlier this year during a severe national lockdown, with residents' movements curtailed further.

In addition to not being allowed to travel from one municipality to another, people in red zones are not allowed to move around within their own area, unless for essential reasons, using either public or private transport.

The entire country faces a nighttime curfew from 10pm to 5am, as a raft of new rules come in under Italy's latest emergency decree.
 
 
While some businesses are allowed to remain open in the red and orange zones, including hairdressers, bookshops, and bars (for takeout service only), many of those said it was not worth doing so.
 
In Italy's financial and fashion capital of Milan, streets have already fallen quiet.
 
“My customers are very scared, very scared,” hairdresser Francesco Puccio told AFP. 
 
“Last week I only had two clients per day, sometimes even just one, so there's no real advantage for me in staying open. There's nobody out and about anymore, the offices are empty,” he said.
 
 
In the southern region of Puglia, under orange zone rules, many bars were closed on Friday, even though they can remain open for takeaway service under the rules.
 
“I don't expect to make much money with takeaway coffee. But if I close, I'm worried I won't reopen,” the owner of one bar told The Local.
 
He said the bar, next to the city's usually-bustling main shopping street Via Sparano, was usually “full from morning to night” but had had “no more then ten” customers on Friday morning.
 
Restaurants, bars and cafes can offer takeout services, but some say it's not worth opening. Photo:AFP

People across Italy have voiced anger and concern after Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte announced the classifications on Wednesday night,

Many wonder how regions with some of the lowest case numbers – Calabria and Valle d'Aosta – had ended up as red zones, while regions with many times more, including Campania, Lazio and Veneto were classed as only moderate risk.
 
Officials in red zone Lombardy – by far the worst-hit area since the start of the pandemic – said the new rules were “a slap in the face”, while the mayor of Naples in hard-hit Campania said it should not have been declared a yellow zone and stricter measures were needed.
 
Red zone Calabria said they would contest the government's decision.
 
READ ALSO: 
The regional classification however isn't made on case numbers alone, but on a complex system of 21 criteria established by Italy's Higher Health Institute (ISS).
 
Italy on Thursday recorded some 34,500 new cases nationwide.
 
There were 445 deaths in the past 24 hours, and health authoriies reported that of the 220,000 tests carried out in the same period, more than ten percent came back positive.
 
“In recent days the situation seemed to have stabilized, even taking into account the daily variability, but today's data tells us that globally the virus is still spreading and it is necessary to stop it,” stated Gianni Rezza, Director of Prevention at the Ministry of Health, at a press conference on Thursday evening.
 

Member comments

  1. How long before Italy’s economy completely collapses? And why is Piemonte red when Campagnia is not? Isn’t Naples a hot spot? Why are Langhe and Roero until the same restrictions as Torino when their hospitals are not experiencing spikes in admissions? Why are government officials so blind to reality that this will kill their society? And why are teachers telling little children that if they don’t wear their masks, their nonni will die? Lots of “why’s”…and no answers. Thank you China. You have won the biological war.

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COVID-19 VACCINES

Italy’s deputy health minister under fire after casting doubt on 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 after casting doubt on Covid vaccines

Gemmato, a 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.

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