Italy slowly emerges from long Covid-19 lockdown


Italy has endured Europe’s longest lockdown, but when it enters its much-anticipated phase two tomorrow, few will find a reason to celebrate.

Last week, after Italy’s prime minister, Giuseppe Conte, outlined plans to slowly ease the country’s quarantine, millions of people were overcome with feelings of anger and disappointment as their hopes were dashed by what many described as a “false reopening”.

Italians will now be able to travel within regions to visit relatives, provided they wear masks, but schools, hairdressers, gyms and many other commercial activities will stay closed; cafes and restaurants will offer takeaways only; and all travel between regions will be banned except for work, health or emergency situations.

Restrictions on funerals have been relaxed, with a maximum of 15 mourners allowed to attend, but masses and weddings will have to wait.

For this reason, last Friday, Pietro Demita, a stylist in Lecce whose company is a leading wedding dress designer, set fire to his entire collection in protest against the lockdown, which has brought the wedding industry to near-collapse.

‘‘I set my creations alight, the fruits of my talent and my artistry, to send a strong message,” Demita told the Observer. “Because, even if I hadn’t, the economic and political decisions imposed during the coronavirus crisis would have sent them up in smoke anyway.”

Expectations had been high for a quick return to normality, especially in the south, where there have been fewer Covid-19 cases than in the north.

The mood is sombre, not only because the virus, despite its slackening, continues to claim lives, but also because people are on edge after having been forced to stay at home for more than 50 days.

“It seems they’re having a good laugh at our expense,” says Costantino Montalbano, 31, a hairstylist in Palermo. “It’s as if they’re telling us to go out but to stay at home.

All this time locked up has affected our mental health, but it’s also hit us hard in the wallet.

If we don’t return to normality soon, coronavirus will have killed not only thousands of people but the entire economy as well.

Reported by: Vincent Paul

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