The number of new cases of coronavirus in Italy is falling, so everyone is asking when and how restrictions will be lifted. What’s the situation right now and how are Italians coping?
On Sunday 26 April the total data for Italy continued to indicate a decline in the number of intensive care admissions and also of new positive cases of Coronavirus. There were 260 new Covid-19 related deaths on Sunday, the lowest daily figure since 14 March. Italy’s transmission rate is reported to be between 0.2 and 0.7.
The virus spread across the country at different rates. Some regions are still experiencing fluctuations in their figures, but predictions for the coming weeks are positive. Italy is ready to cautiously move into Phase two of its lockdown measures.
But first let’s look at the journey so far.
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Coronavirus in Italy: The Lockdown
The story so far is that on 9 March, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte told the people of Italy to Stai a casa (stay at home) and to only go out for necessities. Several towns in the north had already been quarantined since 21 February and schools and universities were closed on the 4 March.
When the news leaked that the Lombardy region was to be put under lockdown, many university students and workers rushed to return to their home towns in the south. The south feared they would bring the coronavirus with them. On arrival they were told to isolate themselves for two weeks.
Coronavirus in Italy: During lockdown
Restaurants and bars were told to close within a few days of the lockdown, as well as shops and factories producing non-essentials. Residents are only allowed to leave their hometown area to do essential work. When they leave the house they must carry a self-certification form showing their home address, where they are going to, and for what essential reason. This can be to buy essentials, such as food and medicine, or to do essential work. Exercise is not an accepted reason and dogs can only be walked within 200 metres of their home. You can’t visit your second home.
The police have been doing checks and hand out high fines to people wandering the streets or travelling with no good reason. On 10 April, the lockdown was extended until 3 May with one small concession. Starting from 14 April stationery shops, bookshops and children’s clothing stores were allowed to reopen. This was the first small restriction to be lifted, and it gave people hope that the next stage might be to allow parks to reopen for children and that jogging might be allowed.
Will lockdown be lifted soon?
Everyone is hoping that the coronavirus will suddenly go away and the government will lift the lockdown, and life will go back to normal. However, realistically we can only expect a gradual lifting of restrictions over a very long period of time.
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Social distancing will be the new normal. The Italian authorities are exercising extreme caution and listening to expert advise. Behind closed doors they have been putting together a plan for “Phase two”. Those who are able do “smart working” are being encouraged to continue doing so. Many estate agents are already working from home and are ready to take your enquiries. Under phase two, ministers say, Italy will need to learn to “coexist with the virus” until the country can move into phase three, when normality can slowly be restored.
Prime Minister Conte’s announcement
On the evening of Sunday 26 April, the Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte announced modifications to the current legislation as regards the measures to contain the spread of the coronavirus in Italy. This is the start of the so-called phase two, with rules that will come into force on 4 May.
However, the government reserves the right to intervene with new restrictive measures should the contagion curve begin to rise or if there are worrying signs in certain areas of the country. It’s worth remembering that on this date there were still 106,000 cases of Covid-19 recorded in the country.
What restrictions will be lifted on 4 May?
The government has set out a plan to restart production and to ease some restrictions on commercial activities. For example, food activities, such as pizzerias, will be allowed to carry out take-away and home delivery. This food must be consumed at home or in the office, not on the premises or in the street. Private construction sites can also restart on the 4th, and while waiting, it’s possible to prepare the work environment. Some regions are also allowing additional activities such as maintaining boats and land.
Everyone must follow a series of protocols to ensure safety in the workplace and while travelling to work. Social distancing is the number one priority. Masks must be worn on public transport and areas where there is a risk of close contact. The government is fixing the maximum purchase price of masks to 50 cents.
Other changes relate to reasons you can leave the house. In addition to the reason of work, situation of necessity and health, you can now visit a nearby relative, while using social distancing and a mask. But family gatherings, parties and public gatherings are strictly prohibited.
You can only travel out of your home region for work needs, absolute urgency, or health reasons. It is still necessary to fill out a self-certification form to justify these movements. The green light has also been given for jogging or other forms of individual sporting activities that respect at least two metre distancing. However, you can accompany a child. Access to public places such as parks will be at the discretion of local administrations.
Next stage of Phase 2
If all goes well, and the regions don’t report a rise in new cases, the retail trade will reopen on 18 May. Exhibitions, museums and training in sports fields will also restart. Bars, restaurants, beauty salons, hairdressers etc. are expected to reopen on 1 June, but with social distancing restrictions. Discussions are still in progress regarding the reopening of bathing establishments, and school buildings will remain closed to students until September.
Will Italy be open this summer?
Some Italian medical experts are warning people to expect a summer without travel and according to expert epidemiologist, Alessandro Vespignani, “We must not think that we can return to normality in July or August”. Meanwhile, private beach clubs are desperately trying to put forward ideas of how they could limit numbers and enforce social distancing on the beach.
Holiday operators are suggesting that country accommodation may also be suitable for social distancing. However, with no indication when overseas tourists will be allowed in, they may be restricted to Italian visitors.
Can I travel to Italy?
When you are able to book flights and accommodation, don’t take that as a guarantee you will be able to go to Italy and move around freely. Easyjet and Ryanair are advertising flights in May to Italian airports that are currently closed. If travelling from the UK, check the latest travel advice on gov.uk which currently “advises British nationals against all but essential international travel.”
The Italian Ministry of External Affairs currently states: “The return to Italy is allowed for absolute urgency reasons (Prime Ministerial Decree of 22 March 2020). Those who return to Italy from abroad must complete a specific self-certification on the reasons for the trip, they cannot take public transport to reach their residence and must undergo isolation for 14 days. The move to the final destination must always be justified by work, health or absolute urgency needs.”
Carriers will also be required to measure the temperatures of passengers before boarding and ensure social distancing.
When will the Coronavirus in Italy end?
The National Health Observatory released their predictions for the earliest possible dates of absence of new cases of contagion. The regions they expect to record zero new cases first are Basilicata, Umbria, Molise, Sardinia, Sicily, Calabria, Puglia and Abruzzo, possibly from the end of April to the beginning of May. Most regions have been predicted dates in May. Only Lombardy and Marche have dates in June. However, these are predictions based on people continuing to follow social distancing rules, and with a new virus predictions are very difficult.
A time for giving
The Italian people have been there for other countries in times of crisis, sending assistance after earthquakes and aid to those in need. Now, that kindness is being returned. An Italian priest in Taiwan was overwhelmed when people began queuing down the street to give money to Italy in gratitude for priests who had helped build hospitals and clinics. Albania and Cuba sent a team of doctors and nurses to assist in Italian hospitals. Russia and China have sent plane loads of medical equipment to help fight the Coronavirus in Italy.
If you want to live in a country with a good community feel to it, then Italy is the place to come.
Big businesses and wealthy individuals in Italy are also playing their part, donating money and equipment to hospitals and the Red Cross. Fashion group Armani turned all its factories over to producing medical gowns. But it is the people that have the least, but give all they can, that are the most deserving of praise. On a local level the famous Italian community spirit is going strong, with people helping in whatever way they can. From delivering food parcels to making masks. If you want to live in a country with a good community feel to it, then Italy is the place to come.
Raising people’s spirits
Italy is a country of art, music and good food. The older generation are an inspiration as they spend this time with their families, teaching them traditional recipes and songs. When a woman of 102 recovered from the Coronavirus in Genoa it gave hope to everyone. Local news pages are full of children’s drawings and stunning photographs and drone videos of our charming towns. There are rainbows on balconies, along with singers and musicians.
On Easter Sunday Andrea Bocelli performed alone at the Duomo Cathedral in Milan. His performance of “Amazing Grace” representing a message of love, healing and hope to Italy and the world. He also sang with Lady Gaga and Celine Dion on the One World together concert. Which also featured Italian singer Zucchero and Dr. Maria Luisa Azzolini, one of the heroes on the frontline in Milan.
Where to find daily updates
For an overall picture of the data in graphs go to Skytg24 or the Departimento della Protezione Civile. For daily news updates follow ANSA.it and the facebook page of Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, for announcements direct from the top man. If you have a particular region or town you are interested in, look for the Facebook page of the Regional President or town Mayor. They both have a lot of authority at a local level, and will be updating citizens daily.
Preparing for your next trip
Now is a great time to get on the internet and research the towns and properties you want to see. Try looking on Google earth to check out the areas you are interested in, as well as videos on Youtube. Local expat groups can also give you an insight into the local communities. For more information on a particular region just do a search on the top right of this page.
While it’s good to keep your options open, it is also worth drawing up a list of your “must haves”. This might include, the number of bedrooms, the properties condition, a pool, a view and distance from a town. It’s important to share your requirements with the estate agents. Also, let them know what your budget is and whether you are looking for a holiday home or permanent residence. With some preparation now, you will be ready to set up appointments and come to Italy as soon as travel restrictions are lifted.