Covid-19: Protesters clash with Italian police over business closures

Protestors clashed with police in Rome for a second week running on Monday as small business owners and employees demonstrated against continued Covid-19 closures across the country.

Covid-19: Protesters clash with Italian police over business closures
Riot police block protesters from heading towards the prime minister's offce in central Rome during a demonstration on Monday. Photo: Alberto Pizzoli/AFP

Around 200 people tried to reach prime minister Mario Draghi’s office, but were held back by lines of police in riot gear, Reuters reports. 

Some protesters hurled stones and bottles at the police and let off fireworks, filling the street with smoke.

Protesters during skirmishes with riot police in Rome’s Piazza San Silvestro on April 12th. Photos: Alberto Pizzoli/AFP

There were similar clashes with police last week during a protest outside parliament, organised by the same group.

Some Italian media reported that far-right groups including Casapound had hijacked the protests, triggering the violence on both occasions.

The demonstration in the city’s central Piazza San Silvestro had initially been organised by a movement called ‘Io Apro’ (meaning “I will open”), which includes restaurant, bar and other business owners who have said they’ll reopen despite the rules currently forbidding them to.

“The problem is we just don’t know what to do. They tell us that we can only do take-aways, but in my neighbourhood with a population of 3,000, what kind of take-aways can I do?” said Silvio Bessone, a chef from the northern Piedmont region.

Chefs prepare to take part in the protest central Rome on Monday. Photo: Alberto Pizzoli/AFP
People holding placards reading “The Puppet Show has ended (Opera de Pupi Finiu)”, “In a world of dragons the restaurants are burning”, a play on words with the surname of current Italian prime minister Mario Draghi. Photo: Alberto Pizzoli/AFP

The whole country remains under tough restrictions meaning bars and restaurants can only serve takeout and delivery, while other businesses such as bars and gyms must remain closed.

While Italy’s first national lockdown in March 2020 was widely accepted, there have been protests since October over renewed measures.

There has been growing unrest in recent weeks after the government said current tight restrictions, which amount to a lockdown in many areas, would stay in place until at least April 30th.

The Italian government has not yet provided a clear plan for the country’s exit from the current lockdown.

Member comments

  1. With opening things up, spare a thought for the hospital staff and first responders, many who have died or been left with long term damage due to COVID-19. Italian hospitals were last year overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients and watching it all unfold from Australia was heartbreaking, listening to medical staff. I don’t understand why the public would want to put hospitals and their staff under that sort of pressure again.

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Covid-19 still causing 1,000 deaths a week in Europe, WHO warns

The World Health Organization's European office warned on Tuesday the risk of Covid-19 has not gone away, saying it was still responsible for nearly 1,000 deaths a week in the region. And the real figure may be much higher.

Covid-19 still causing 1,000 deaths a week in Europe, WHO warns

The global health body on May 5 announced that the Covid-19 pandemic was no longer deemed a “global health emergency.”

“Whilst it may not be a global public health emergency, however, Covid-19 has not gone away,” WHO Regional Director for Europe Hans Kluge told reporters.

The WHO’s European region comprises 53 countries, including several in central Asia.

“Close to 1,000 new Covid-19 deaths continue to occur across the region every week, and this is an underestimate due to a drop in countries regularly reporting Covid-19 deaths to WHO,” Kluge added, and urged authorities to ensure vaccination coverage of at least 70 percent for vulnerable groups.

Kluge also said estimates showed that one in 30, or some 36 million people, in the region had experienced so called “long Covid” in the last three years, which “remains a complex condition we still know very little about.”

“Unless we develop comprehensive diagnostics and treatment for long Covid, we will never truly recover from the pandemic,” Kluge said, encouraging more research in the area which he called an under-recognised condition.

Most countries in Europe have dropped all Covid safety restrictions but some face mask rules remain in place in certain countries in places like hospitals.

Although Spain announced this week that face masks will no longer be required in certain healthcare settings, including hospitals and pharmacies, with a couple of exceptions.

Sweden will from July 1st remove some of its remaining Covid recommendations for the public, including advice to stay home and avoid close contact with others if you’re ill or have Covid symptoms.

The health body also urged vigilance in the face of a resurgence of mpox, having recorded 22 new cases across the region in May, and the health impact of heat waves.