Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte extended the country’s three-tier coronavirus restrictions on Friday, imposing a nationwide 10pm to 5am curfew until March and forbidding travel between Italy’s 20 regions until February 15. These measures were originally implemented in November, and were set to expire on Friday.
For regions classified as ‘Orange’ or ‘Red’ based on the number of recorded cases there, bars and restaurants are limited to providing take-away only.
The extended restrictions haven’t gone down well with bar owners and restaurateurs. Organizing on social media under the hashtag ‘#IoApro’ (I Open), owners threw their doors open on Friday in protest.
The mood in one Milan establishment was seemingly festive, with music blaring and a full house of unmasked customers ending the night by dancing on tables.
Reports in Italian media state that some bars and restaurants weren’t as openly defiant. Some simply stayed open past 6pm, the mandated closing time in ‘Yellow’ zones. Others opened, but remained discreet and enforced social distancing inside.
The number of participants is unclear. Before Friday, the #IoApro organizers said that as many as 50,000 restaurateurs were expected to take part. However, reports in Italian media suggest that far fewer actually opened their doors.
In one video that went viral on Friday night, the footage apparently shows police attempting to enter a pub, before being bullied out the door by chanting customers.
Some customers didn’t get off as lightly, however. In at least one restaurant in Florence, nine patrons were fined and the owner was forced to shut altogether for a week, despite Florence being in the ‘Yellow’ zone.
Italy suffered hard and early from Covid-19, and to date it has confirmed more than 2.35 million cases of the disease, along with over 81,000 deaths. Though new cases and deaths have fallen from their record highs in November, more than 15,000 are recorded most days, and several hundred people still pass away every day.
While restaurant owners may be sick of the country’s tiered restrictions, an adviser to Health Minister Roberto Speranza told Bloomberg on Friday that a return to a strict national lockdown could be on the cards soon.
“We have to limit people’s movement, block everything except essential businesses for two months,” he said, warning that “weak measures won’t work now.”
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