Report Contents

November 4, 2020

Europe

ITALY: Catching up while seeking to pass the buck

BY Wolfango Piccoli

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Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte has signed the latest emergency decree, which comes into force from 5 November and will be valid until 3 December. The PM signed the decree late in the night after summits with regional leaders continued until the early hours. Facing a dramatic worsening of the pandemic and the inevitable socio-political backlash, national and regional politicians are scrambling to deflect the responsibility for imposing new restrictions. The “regionalized” approach adopted via the new three-tier risk system introduces an appearance of “automaticity” driven by scientific data that politicians hope will shield them from criticism when new curbs are imposed.

The government is now expected to announce a new stimulus package (worth around EUR 1.5bn) to help businesses hit by new restrictions. These compensatory measures come after the 27 October EUR 5.4bn stimulus package that included grants, tax cancellation, and fresh money to extend the furlough scheme to 31 January. Puzzlingly, Rome says that both packages will not push this year’s budget deficit above its current target of 10.5% of GDP.

The latest decree comes as Italy reported 353 Covid-19-related deaths on 3 November, the highest daily figure since 6 May and up from 233 a day earlier. Some 28,241 new coronavirus infections were also reported while the positivity rate was 25.7%.

A nationwide night-time curfew

New measures include a nationwide night-time curfew from 10pm until 5am. The new national measures will also include the closure of shopping centers at weekends, and the complete closure of museums, galleries, betting and bingo halls. Primary schools will remain open, but children over age six will be required to wear masks in school in high-risk areas. Secondary schools will be required to teach all lessons remotely, and public transport capacity will be reduced to 50%. Working from home will be the norm when possible.

Recall that gyms, cinemas, and theatres are already shut all over the country, while bars and restaurants must close at 6pm. People must not host more than six guests, and masks are obligatory outdoors and in public buildings.

A new three-tier risk system introduced

The decree also introduces a new three-tiered risk system that puts Italy’s 20 regions into either green (lowest risk level), orange (elevated risk level), or red (highest risk level) zones with differentiated rules and restrictions for each phase. The Health Ministry will issue ordinances (valid for at least 15 days) that determine which regions are in which tier, based on 21 scientific and social parameters such as the R-rate contagiousness index and the number of available hospital beds and personnel in each region. Health ministry advisors will also decide when a region is ready to move to a different risk rating.

The regions that will be subject to the most stringent restrictions are likely to be Lombardy, Piedmont, Calabria, Valle d’Aosta, and Alto Adige. In the high-risk regions, the restrictions will be similar to the rigid lockdown imposed during the spring. Travel will be banned in and out of red zone regions, which will also have internal travel restrictions that prohibit leaving one’s residential municipality except for work, study, or health reasons. Stores and markets (excluding food and groceries) and most non-essential services will also be closed in the red zones.