Italian regions up in arms over government’s Xmas Covid curbs

ROME (Reuters) – Italy’s regions on Thursday hit out at the government over its latest curbs to control the coronavirus, saying they were not consulted over measures that were too hard on families and did not compensate hard-hit businesses.

a group of people walking on a city street: FILE PHOTO: The outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Rome

© Reuters/YARA NARDI
FILE PHOTO: The outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Rome

Under a decree approved late on Wednesday, Italians will not be able to move between the country’s 20 regions from Dec. 21 to Jan. 6 except for work, medical reasons or emergencies. On Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year’s Day they cannot even leave their towns.

In a joint statement the regional governments said they had not been consulted and “the lack of discussion has made it impossible to balance the curbs with the needs of families.”

Since the start of Italy’s pandemic there has been constant friction between the central government led by Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte and the regional authorities, most of which are in the hands of the centre-right opposition.

“Reading an unexpected decree that bans movements between towns in the same region on Dec. 25, 26 and Jan. 1… is crazy,” said Attilio Fontana, governor of the northern Lombardy region which has reported the most cases and deaths.

While the increase in new infections and hospital admissions has slowed in recent weeks, Italy is still reporting more daily COVID-19 fatalities than any other European nation and the government is worried about gatherings over Christmas.

Millions of Italians live in small towns and villages and the new rules will ban movement between them at Christmas and on New Year’s Day, even if they are within walking distance.

“These families must remain divided even at Christmas. This is yet more proof that the government does not know Italy,” said Matteo Salvini, leader of the rightist League opposition party.

The government is expected to introduce more measures late on Thursday aimed at preventing gatherings during Christmas, with Conte due to hold a news conference to illustrate them at 1915 GMT.

All ski resorts will be closed until January, a draft document seen by Reuters shows, while the Christmas Eve mass, traditionally held at midnight, must be brought forward to allow worshippers to return home before a 10 p.m. curfew.

(Reporting by Angelo Amante)

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