Italy’s health minister did not waiver on tough new anti-coronavirus restrictions on Friday as the country continued to be rocked by protests against the curbs.
Friday marked the first day in which four Italian regions – Calabria, Lombardy, Piedmont and Valle d’Aosta – were forced into lockdowns. Less stringent measures were applied in the rest of the country.
“I want to be very clear: There is no other way,” Health Minister Roberto Speranza said in the lower house of parliament.
“Without significant restrictions on movement, without a substantial change in our way of life, without strict compliance with safety rules, cohabitation with the virus until a vaccine comes is destined to fail spectacularly,” he added.
Leaders of regions affected by lockdowns have complained that the decision to close them was based on arbitrary or outdated health parameters. Some have threatened legal appeals.
Meanwhile, taxi drivers in several cities conducted a day-long strike to complain about the loss of business and demand compensation in the form of tax breaks and welfare payments.
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Lockdowns imply the closure of most shops – except those selling food, medicines or other essentials including books – and orders to stay home unless people have to work, buy food or run urgent errands.
But, unlike during Italy’s first lockdown in March-May, nurseries and primary schools remain open, as do bars and restaurants, albeit only for takeaway.
In Milan “there are a few people around” but the city is not as “ghostly and deserted” as it was six months ago, the Corriere della Sera newspaper reported.
The government has effectively divided the country into three zones. Beyond “red” regions under lockdown, there are “orange” and “yellow” ones.
Relatively less-infected “yellow” regions only have to comply with nationwide measures such as a night-time curfew, closed museums and a switch to online lessons for high schools and universities.
“Orange” regions additionally face travel restrictions, banning movements in and out of these regions and between cities within them. Sicily and Puglia are included in this category.
The government has adopted a differentiated regime as a way of avoiding a nationwide shutdown that would have caused more damage to the economy.
But deciding which regions should face the tougher crackdowns and which should be spared has proven an unpopular and contentious exercise.
The government tried to depoliticize the issue by making it all dependent on 21 public health parameters, but it has been criticized for not applying them transparently.
“It is time for everybody to pull in the same direction and play fewer political games, otherwise the entire country will crash,” Massimo Galli, a top virologist from Milan’s Sacco hospital said in a briefing with the Foreign Press Association.
Several hospitals, including Galli’s, are running out of beds for Covid-19 patients. In Novara, in Piedmont, a hospital stopped taking in ambulances for a few hours on Thursday night.
On Thursday, Italy reported a record of 34,505 daily virus infections and 445 deaths. Its total infection count reached almost 825,000 cases, while the overall death toll hit 40,192.
Vanguard News Nigeria
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