May 4th, "Phase 2" starts: What's going to happen in Italy

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May 2, 2020 (Updated May 5)
Written by: Angelo Colella

The so-called "Fase 2" is going to be a second phase which is to ideally follow the current state of things, and its prelude has been the announcement by the Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte during a new speech, broadcasted on TV on April 26th, in which a new Prime Ministerial Decree has been announced.

Prime Minister Conte invited the citizens to not let anger and hard feelings get to them, but instead to keep going without stopping. But a lot of things have not gone well.

On April 10th, in Pescara, a lone jogger has been chased down by a Carabiniere while running on a beach: although at first he was able to escape, he has been later identified and fined €4000.

On April 11th, on a beach near Palermo in Sicily, we have seen a Carabinieri helicopter tracking down a man sunbathing by himself. Since April 16th the Riminese local Police have been using drones to patrol beaches and public parks in the event of someone illegally being outdoors.

Nearly empty beach with a couple (archive)
A couple walk on a nearly empty beach during normal time (archive)

It's needless to remember that, as of now, strict rules are currently in effect to regulate and deter unnecessary movements in public areas, and the respect for the law is vital to a civil society, but to use all these means against such negligible crimes makes the State look arrogant towards upright citizens.

Considering that the medias have compared this coronavirus epidemic to a war, this last period actually does look a lot like September 8th 1943, the day the armistice signed between Italy and the Allies during World War II came into force, with its confused and contradictory orders.

For example: the Ministry of the Interior had allowed for official celebrations on April 25th (Italy's Liberation Day) to take place, while attending mass in churches was still forbidden. But Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte has not suddenly turned into an unprepared slouch: the problem actually lies in the Phase 2 itself.

Phase 1 was easier, all there was to do was to forbid and to blame others. The lockdown had been the citizens' fault and, if it's to be prolonged, it will still be the citizens' fault. If there's no money to be spent on the management of this health crisis, that's because the EU won't lend them.

For Phase 2 it will be necessary to take decisions, but it will be problematic if the government coalition is politically disunited. Italian Senator and former Prime Minister Matteo Renzi had been stating, since the end of March 2020, the necessity to re-open factories and schools within Easter, and is now pressing to speed up the process like other European countries are doing. The Five Star Movement, instead, wishes to end the national lockdown as late as possible. These clashes, while not manifest, do exist and make it hard and confusing for the Government to take appropriate choices.

Italian newspaper "Il Messaggero" tells us of a meeting held at Palazzo Chigi, on April 20th, to discuss these matters.
The National Observatory on Healthcare in the Italian Regions, led by Walter Ricciardi (consultant for WHO, for the Minister of Health and main supporter of the separated openings), has figuratively divided Italy in 3 macro-areas and has published a map to predict when, in the various Regions, the coronavirus outbreak is more likely to come to an end.

Corona virus infection map Italy May 2, 2020
Corona virus infection map Italy May 2, 2020

According to the map, the central-northern Regions, where the outbreak had occurred earlier, are arguably going to be the last ones  to get rid of it. Instead, the first ones could be Basilicata and Umbria where, on April 17th, have been recorded respectively 1 and 18 cases and that might have, according to the figures, reached the flattening of the contagion curve. 
The problem with these separated openings is that the estimates for the central-northern regions conflict with the ambitions and aims of some of their Regional Governors who, instead, are urging to open without further delay. The problem is that these regions, like Piedmont and Lombardy, still have a considerable percentage of infection.

The much-preferred solution seems to be a contextual start that won't accentuate imbalances in the manufacturing activities throughout the country, and to avoid creating "unfair competition" in the supply chains of the various regions.
This should also prevent thousands of citizens to pour from the North into the South, with the risk of generating new emergencies in those regions less affected by the epidemic.

The point is to have a picture of the reaction of the country from an epidemiological point of view even if, we read from Italian newspaper "Il Mattino", many citizens have already booked train and bus tickets from Milan to Naples to get back to their domicile, dwelling or residence.

Roma Termini train departure bulletin board
Roma Termini train departure bulletin board

Furthermore, interviewed by "Corriere della Sera" on April 29th, Vittorio Colao (leader of the task force assembled by the Government to manage Phase 2) has stated that, in case of a new spike of the contagion, this time the approach will be at a micro-geographical level, in the smallest areas possible, and not at a national or even at a regional level.

The Prime Ministerial Decree (dPCm, in Italian: "decreto del Presidente del Consiglio dei ministri") of April 26th which opens the Fase-2 of this coronavirus emergency diversifies, depending on a series of dates, the gradual re-opening of manufacturing activities.

In addition, it not only re-allows to hold funerals in compliance with certain security measures, it also gives the citizens the chance to visit their loved ones even if, at first, it was unclear what the Government had meant to say. The problem was in the semantic use of the Italian word "congiunti" (lit. "kinsmen"), and it had to be specified in a following FAQ, published on the official website governo.it , that "congiunti" refers not only to the immediate family (up to the sixth degree of relationship) but also to parts of a civil union. As for friends, despite what previously announced by vice-minister of Health Pierpaolo Sileri, they're not included in the list anymore.

Small personal freedoms, notwithstanding the rules of keeping the interpersonal social-distancing space of at least 1 meter, a careful hand hygiene and the requirement to wear the surgical mask in enclosed public spaces which are open to the public, on means of transportation and in any place where social-distancing can't be respected: the government ordinance is that it won't be mandatory on other occasions, but every Regional Governor may issue special ordinances to make it mandatory in the territories under their competence.

Park on a spring day without many people
A park on a spring day during normal time, strict physical distance must be observed under Phase 2

Extraordinary Commissioner for the Coronavirus Crisis Domenico Arcuri signed an order to sell the surgical masks at the state-controlled price of €0.50. This has already caused a backlash by the group CRAI, which has issued a press release on April 29th to inform that the state-controlled price has made it impossible to sell any more surgical masks to a price that's lower than their cost of purchase.

From April 27th the most strategic exporting producers, that risk to lose more market shares, have been allowed to re-open  on the condition that they present the prefects with a self-certificate and receive the go-ahead.

From May 4th, travels and commutes will be allowed only within the same Region: movements towards other Regions can be allowed only if theres demonstrable work or health needs. The self-certificate will still be needed to justify these movements and the .pdf file can be downloaded from the web site:
https://www.interno.gov.it/sites/default/files/allegati/nuovo_modello_autodichiarazione_editabile_maggio_2020.pdf

The form will be modified in order to include, among the three states of necessitym, six rows left blank in which the citizen may specify the reason for his movement. Interviewed by La Stampa on May 4th, Minister of the Interior Luciana Lamorgese has invited the population not to consider the self-certificate as a useless bureaucratic slowing.

These new norms will be in effect at least until June 18th and, after that, it will be possible to move on to the next step if, in the meantime, the contagion curve hasn't gone up too much again.

From May 4th it will also be possible to stroll away from ones house, provided the prescribed distance from other people, and this will be a good opportunity to go jogging, playing sports in the open and resume individual training. Athletes, professional or not, will have to train by themselves and to keep a distance of at least 2 meters between each other. Trainings must be conducted behind closed doors and, above all, athletes must be tested to confirm theyre not positive to coronavirus. Each athlete must have his own enclosed space for the whole duration of the training. Of course, to avoid gatherings, the use of changing rooms must be regulated and athletes are recommended to show up alredy with their training outfit on and, after the training, to go straight home. Finally, athletes must undergo a medical examination at least on a weekly basis.

Vincenzo De Luca, President of the Campania region, had announced on his Facebook account on April 27th that jogging its not compatible with the use of surgical masks because its dangerous to run with mouth and nose covered, and also because joggers are more likely to emit saliva in droplets that can be a source of contagion. Despite this, in Campania its again allowed to go jogging: a new ordinance, issued on May 2nd, explains that jogging can be practiced individually. From 6AM to 8.30AM it is possible not to wear the surgical mask, but its mandatory to carry it so that it can be worn when in proximity of other people. During the rest of the day theres no time limit to practice physical activity in the open, and its now possible to  but its required to wear the surgical mask and, in any case, to comply with the rules of social distancing and individual activity (except in the case of minors and dependent persons, who need a carer). The only ones exempted from wearing the surgical mask are children until 6 years of age, and people with pathologies which are not compatible with the use of surgical masks. In Campania its mandatory, from May 4th, for all the citizens to wear the surgical mask when leaving their house.

Public parks and gardens will re-open on the national territory, but there could be quotas to regulate entrances to children's areas and, in any case, the mayors can implement further restrictions and the law enforcement will monitor compliance with the rules.

Restaurants and bars will stay closed for dining-in, but its already possible to order takeaway food. It's forbidden to eat in the places of business or nearby, in order to avoid gatherings. Restaurant business in general can do deliveries even outside the municipal territory, but they can take orders only  by phone or online and, in any case, the delivery must comply with the rules of social distancing. As for takeaway sales, at the entrance of the place of business there must be positioned a table for handing over the food. Its up to the business owners to ensure that the customers, and the delivery people, comply with the rules of social distancing, and that the costumers wear the surgical mask while the staff has to wear surgical mask and gloves.

A restaurant with many people inside
A restaurant with many people inside during normal time. It will be a long time before a crowd is allowed again

From May 18th it will be possible to go to the beach or to the mountains, and move to one's holiday home. Liturgical functions will also resume from May 18th, following complaints by the Church.

 Instead, clothing stores, shoe shops, jewelers, and other retailing businesses will re-open but will always have to make sure that the customers respect the rules for social distancing and wearing surgical masks. Finally, museums will re-open and it will be possible to visit exhibits with regulated entrances.

On June 1st, bars, restaurants and bakeries will re-open. Based on the size of the places and on the available spaces, restaurants are sure to lose at least half of their seats because of the strict rules for indoors social-distancing: at least 2 meters' space has to be kept between each table, and waiters will have to wear surgical mask and gloves.
Moreover, hairdressers and beauty parlors will get back to work but only with reservation:  stores and boutiques that involve direct contacts between customers and staff are high-risk.
 
There is no way to make predictions for pubs, gyms, theaters, movie theaters, discos: before that, we'll have to see that the previous steps won't cause a resurgence of the contagion.

Author Angelo Colella is a professional translator fluent in Italian, English and French, you can reach him here.

 

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