ROME — The Italian government has extended its national citizen lockdown for at least an additional three weeks, adding to concerns of an imploding economy and a growing number of people running out of funds for basic necessities.

In making the announcement via videoconferencing, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte noted that the rate of new positive cases of the coronavirus has slowed but not sufficiently to warrant the reopening of services or relaxing rules for leaving one’s home.

If the positive trend continues, Conte said, “we could start loosening some measures as of the end of this month.”

“At the moment we are not in a position to reopen production activities since we would risk rebooting the contagion curve and frustrate the results we have obtained with the measures implemented by the government,” the prime minister said in a separate videoconference.

Meanwhile, government officials continue to deliberate regarding which sorts of economic activities should be the first to reopen when the time comes.

According to local media, certain manufacturing firms, mechanics, pharmaceuticals, the agricultural production, and possibly even stationery stores could be among the first to reopen.

In much of Italy, the number of those testing positive for coronavirus has been extremely low. Even in the Lazio region where the Italian capital of Rome is located, has experience a contagion rate of less than one in a thousand, with a death toll of just 42 per million, even with the policy of attributing all deaths to COVID-19 where a positive test occurs, regardless of the presence of other comorbidities.

Despite the uneven severity of the virus, the nationwide lockdown has imposed the same harsh restrictions on all regions. Government has boasted of the number of stops made and fines issued in an apparent attempt to terrify people into staying home.

Since the lockdown began, local and military police have carried out six million spot checks and issued fines to over 220,000 people deemed to have insufficient motive for leaving their residence.

During this same period, officials have performed more than 2.5 million checks on shops and businesses to see whether they are complying with lockdown rules.

In Italy’s south, the pandemic has had minimal effect on people’s health but a major impact on their livelihoods.

Ten days ago, reports were already circulating of people running out of food and money in the southern regions of Campania, Calabria, Sicily, and Puglia. Police have been patrolling supermarkets to stop thefts, while the many working for payment under the table have been deprived of all their income.

It remains to be seen how people will survive another three weeks of lockdown as the situation for many becomes critical and means of earning money has dried up.

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