Europe, Latest on coronavirus outbreak

Italy lifts antivirus curbs with new decree

Extension of nation-wide curfew splits government with League abstaining from vote

Giada Zampano   | 21.04.2021
Italy lifts antivirus curbs with new decree

ROME 

The Italian government approved on Wednesday a new emergency decree including the rules for the country’s reopening over the coming months.

After a heated debate among the ministers, the Cabinet headed by premier Mario Draghi gave the green light to the new package of anti-coronavirus measures, which will be effective from April 26 to July 31.

The decree sets a timetable for the restart of many businesses, including restaurants, theaters, and gyms.

As Draghi anticipated at a press conference last week, many activities will be allowed to resume only outdoors, while the main restrictions will be lifted in the low-risk areas classified as “yellow zones.”

Theatres, museums, and cinemas will be allowed to reopen with some limitations, while restaurants will be able to serve only people sitting outdoors for both lunch and dinner.

The nationwide ban on travel between regions will no longer apply to yellow zones, while people will be allowed to enter and leave areas classified as higher-risk zones using a so-called “green pass,” which will be released based on vaccinations or tests performed.

Schools of any kind will also be among the first to reopen, being at the top of the government’s priorities, Draghi said.

However, the nationwide evening curfew at 10 p.m. (2000GMT) will remain in place, opening a rift within the government. Some ruling parties, headed by the right-wing League, had been pushing to postpone the curfew to 11 p.m. (2100GMT), to allow people more time to eat dinner in restaurants.

In a sign of dissent over the curfew extension, the League's ministers abstained from voting on the new decree on Wednesday afternoon.

“We couldn’t vote in favor of a decree that continues to impose closures, curfews, restrictions,” League leader Matteo Salvini said in a statement after the Cabinet meeting.

Scientists have voiced some concern about the safety of lifting restrictions now, amid a still-high infection rate and continued delays in the country’s vaccination campaign.

Draghi, however, said the government was taking a “calculated risk” as the reopening was announced last week.​​​​​​​

The government decision came after business owners in different sectors staged demonstrations across Italy, voicing their discontent about prolonged lockdowns that brought their activities to a halt, forcing many to close down.

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