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: Are Italian live events at risk of being postponed?

As the infection rate rises sharply across the country, Italian virologists are calling for concerts and festivals to be rescheduled.

Covid-19: Are Italian live events at risk of being postponed?

Italy has seen a large increase in the number of Covid-19 cases in recent days, so much so that a number of virologists across the country are now urging the government to postpone major live events in a bid to curb infections. 

According to a new report by Italy’s independent health watchdog, the Gimbe Foundation, 595,349 new cases were recorded in the week from June 29th to July 5th; a worrying 55 percent increase on the previous week. 

In the same time span, the country also registered a 32.8 percent rise in the number of hospitalised patients, which went from 6,035 to 8,003.  

The latest Covid wave, which is being driven by the highly contagious Omicron 5 variant, is a “real cause for concern”, especially in terms of a “potential patient overload”, said Nino Cartabellotta, president of the Gimbe Foundation. 

As Italian cities prepare to host a packed calendar of concerts and festivals this summer, health experts are questioning whether such events should actually take place given the high risk of transmission associated with mass gatherings.

READ ALSO: What tourists in Italy need to know if they get Covid-19

“Rescheduling these types of events would be the best thing to do right now,” said Massimo Ciccozzi, Director of Epidemiology at Campus Bio-Medico University of Rome. 

The summer wave is expected to peak in mid-July but, Ciccozzi warns, the upcoming live events might “delay [the peak] until the end of July or even beyond” and extend the infection curve.

Antonello Maruotti, Professor of Statistics at LUMSA University of Rome, recently shared Ciccozzi’s concerns, saying that live events as big as Maneskin’s scheduled Rome concert are “definitely not a good idea”. 

The Italian rock band are slated to perform at the Circus Maximus on Saturday, July 9th but the expected turnout – over 70,000 fans are set to attend the event – has raised objections from an array of Italian doctors, with some warning that the concert might cause as many as 20,000 new cases.

If it were to materialise, the prospected scenario would significantly aggravate Lazio’s present medical predicament as there are currently over 186,000 Covid cases in the region (nearly 800 patients are receiving treatment in local hospitals). 

Italian rock band Maneskin performing in Turin

Italian rock band Maneskin are expected to perform at the Circus Maximus in Rome on Saturday, July 9th. Photo by Marco BERTORELLO / AFP

But, despite pleas to postpone the event, it is likely that Maneskin’s concert will take place as scheduled.

Alessandro Onorato, Rome’s Tourism Councillor, said that rescheduling is “out of question” and that “all recommendations from the local medical authorities will be adopted” with the help of the event’s organisers and staff on the ground.

At the time of writing, there is also no indication that the Italian government will consider postponing other major live events scheduled to take place in the coming weeks, though the situation is evolving rapidly and a U-turn on previous dispositions can’t be ruled out.

READ ALSO: At a glance: What are the Covid-19 rules in Italy now?

On this note, it is worth mentioning that Italy has now scrapped all of its former Covid measures except the requirement to wear FFP2 face masks on public transport (though not on planes) and in healthcare settings.

The use of face coverings is, however, still recommended in all crowded areas, including outdoors – exactly the point that leading Italian doctors are stressing in the hope that live events will not lead to large-scale infection.

Antonio Magi, President of Rome’s OMCEO (College of Doctors, Surgeons and Dentists), said: “Our advice is to wear FFP2 masks […] in high-risk situations.”

“I hope that young people will heed our recommendations and think about the health risks that their parents or grandparents might be exposed to after the event [they attend].”