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Friday 20 November 2020 16:11

Italy turning Covid corner

With everyone’s thoughts turning to Christmas, there are signs that Italy may finally be turning the Covid corner.

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Sorry, no Christmas markets in Italy this year.













With everyone’s thoughts turning to Christmas, there are signs that Italy may finally be turning the Covid corner. Health Minister Roberto Speranza reported on Friday that the R transmission rate had dropped throughout the country in the last week and was now averaging 1.18. (An R number of 1.0 means that on average an infected person is passing the virus to one other person). In some regions the rate has dropped below 1.0 with Lazio down to 0.82, Liguria 0.89, Molise 0.94 and Sardinia 0.79. Even Lombardy (1.15), Piedmont (1.09) and Campania (1.11) appear to be responding to the restrictive measures introduced on November 3.

Nevertheless, with hospital intensive care units still under strain in almost every region, the government is taking no chances. Italy is currently divided into red (high risk), orange (medium risk) and yellow (moderate risk) zones, and all regions will remain in the same zone until at least December 3. The nationwide 10pm to 5am curfew will continue, museums and galleries remain closed, and bars and restaurants in yellow zones only allowed to serve until 6pm. In orange zones travel will remain restricted, and bars and restaurants completely closed. Meanwhile, the red zones remain under the kind of draconian
the whole country endured in the spring, with all non-essential shops closed and no one allowed to leave home at all except for work, study or medical emergencies, when an autocertificazione form must be carried.

The government is expected to extend the current measures beyond December 3 to try to bring every region below an R rate of 1.0. It hopes to be able to allow a ten-day window leading up to Christmas for shopping in the red zones to give some relief to the embattled retail sector, although Christmas markets will not be allowed. Prime Minister Conte has already reassured children that Father Christmas will not be subject to travel restrictions, although he did not specify whether “Babbo Natale” would be required to carry an autocertificazione. Yet, "we must prepare for a more sober Christmas than in the past and, we hope, in the future," Conte warned.

Strict measures will probably be brought back immediately after Christmas to prevent the kind of free-for-all that occurred in the summer, with such disastrous consequences.

If the flattening of the curve of the spread of Covid-19 has provided a glimmer of hope in the pandemic tunnel, the positive results from the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines are the light at the end of that tunnel. Health Minister Speranza said that Italy may have the first doses of a vaccine in the first months of 2021, with priority to be given to health care workers, followed by patients in hospital and care homes. Let’s hope Easter in Italy will be less sober than Christmas.


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