The world needs to adapt to living with the coronavirus and cannot wait to be saved by a vaccine. This is the sentiment which served as the basis of Giuseppe Conte’s speech announcing a new decree which maps out easing restrictions in the coming days.
“We are confronting this risk, and we need to accept it, otherwise we would never be able to relaunch,” Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte said, acceding to a push by regional leaders to allow restaurants, bars and beach facilities to open Monday, weeks ahead of an earlier timetable.
On Sunday, Italian Prime Minister, signed the decree which authorises activity’s restarting.
On Saturday Conte said the country could not wait until a vaccine against the virus is developed because “we would end up with a strongly damaged economic and social structure”.
There have been 31,763 recorded deaths from the coronavirus in Italy, according to data from Johns Hopkins University, although the country’s infection rate has fallen fast in recent days.
Shops, restaurants and hair salons prepared to reopen in Italy on Monday as the government further eased one of the world’s strictest coronavirus lockdowns, saying it was taking a “calculated risk” to put the country back on its feet.
The euro zone’s third biggest economy is slowly emerging from more than two months of hibernation, with businesses allowed to gradually go back to work as long they can enforce tight sanitary protocols and keep people at least 1 metre apart.
At Milan’s upscale Rinascente department store, guards will keep count through an app of how many people are in the store at any one time. Clothes tried on in changing rooms will be quarantined for 24 hours and shop assistants will spill perfumes on paper tissues rather than having customers handle testers. Access to restaurants will be strictly limited, with only family members allowed to sit close to each other.
Rinascente’s Chief Executive Pierluigi Cocchini said it was difficult to predict what appetite there would be to shop after weeks of isolation. The store is reopening with markdowns of up to 60% as, like most retailers, it needs to clear unsold stocks.
“The hope is to take a step towards normality. It won’t be business as usual given all the protocols, but this is the new normal for now and we have to accept it,” he told Reuters. Tourists, still absent, would normally generate a third of the store’s sales.
Italy‘s fashion industry alone, boasting brands like Armani, Prada and Moncler, accounts for 5% of gross domestic product.
Business association Confcommercio expects consumer spending for clothing, which stood at 60 billion euros ($65 billion) in 2019, to shrink by 20% this year and a quarter of the country’s 115,000 fashion retailers to go bust. “I know that for several sectors of the economy, reopening does not mean recovery,” Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said late on Saturday as he announced the lifting of the restrictions.
With its economy facing severe recession and public debt expected to spiral to more than 150% of its annual economic output, the government has been desperate to get the country back to work without triggering a second wave of the epidemic. “We have to restart,” said Rosy Riente, which runs the Cafe de l’Ange in the posh Alpine resort of Courmayeur, even though distancing rules mean that she can now sit a maximum of 35 people at any one time in her bar instead of 100.
“So far all we have done is spend money to buy sanitising gels and disinfectants,” she said. Others prefer to wait until European borders reopen on June 3. Tourism contributes 13% to the country’s economic output.
“My shop looks like a hospital, with plexiglass screens at the till, sanitisers, face masks and gloves,” said Maurizio Di Rienzo, owner of suitcase shop Pellux in central Milan, whose eight employees have been furloughed. “90% of my clients are tourists, most of them Chinese. It doesn’t make sense for me to reopen just yet.”
Summer weather is enticing much of the world to emerge from coronavirus lockdowns as centers of the outbreak from New York to Italy and Spain gradually lift restrictions that have kept millions indoors for months.
People are streaming back to beaches, parks and streets just as a heat wave hits southern Europe and spring-like temperatures allow Americans to shed winter coats. As they venture out again, most are keeping their distance and some are wearing masks. However, protests are also heating up from Germany to England to the United States, arguing the government restrictions demolish personal liberties and are wrecking economies.
Greeks flocked to the seaside on Saturday when more than 500 beaches reopened, coinciding with temperatures of 34 Celsius (93 Fahrenheit).
Umbrella poles had to be 4 meters (13 ft) apart, with canopies no closer than 1 meter as the country sought to walk the fine line between protecting people from COVID-19 while reviving the tourism sector that many depend on for their livelihoods.
“This is the best thing for us elderly … to come and relax a bit after being locked in,” Yannis Tentomas, who is in his 70s, said as he settled down on the sand.
White circles were painted on the lawn in Brooklyn’s Domino Park in New York City to help sunbathers and picnickers keep a safe distance. About half the people in the park appeared to be wearing some form of face covering as they congregated in small groups on a warm Saturday afternoon with police officers in masks keeping watch.
In Paris’ Bois de Boulogne, health training worker Anne Chardon was carrying disinfectant gel and a mask but said she felt a sense of freedom again for the first time after weeks of confinement.
“It’s as if we were in Sleeping Beauty’s castle, all asleep, all frozen, and suddenly there’s light and space, suddenly we can experience again the little joys of everyday, in the spaces that belong to us, and that we’re rediscovering.”
On the French Riviera, many who took a dip in the sea wore protective masks. Fishing and surfing were also allowed, but sunbathing was banned.
“We’re semi-free,” said one local bather sporting a straw hat as he strolled the rather empty pebbly beach in Nice. Bathers seeking relief from the heat in Tel Aviv in the waters of the Mediterranean Sea and Jordan Valley mostly tried to stay apart.
“We hope that the hot water, weather, make corona go away,” said Lilach Vardi, a woman who came to swim in the Dead Sea in Israel, as a lifeguard tried to fry an egg in a pan in the scorching sand nearby.
In Tunisia, which reported no new COVID-19 cases over four consecutive days last week, people flooded into the streets and to recently reopened shops with little social-distancing.
Muslims are nearing the Eid al-Fitr holiday ending the holy month of Ramadan, when many celebrate with new purchases.
“I stayed at home for two months and almost went crazy,” said one woman at Tunis’ Manar City Mall. “I’m surprised by the crowd but I need to buy clothes for my children for Eid.”
But throughout the world, small pockets of protesters bristled at any restrictions. In the U.S. states of Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, protests demanding states reopen faster have drawn demonstrators armed with rifles and handguns, which can be carried in public in many parts of the country.
Thousands of Germans took to the streets across the country on Saturday to demonstrate against restrictions imposed by the government, and Polish police fired tear gas to disperse protesters in Warsaw.
In London’s Hyde Park, police arrested 19 people on Saturday for deliberately breaking social distancing guidelines in protest at the rules, on the first weekend since Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a slight loosening of England’s lockdown.
The scene elsewhere in the city was much calmer on Sunday as children climbed trees, kicked footballs and threw Frisbees in Greenwich Park. Couples and larger groups sunned themselves on the open lawns, mostly observing social distancing as they chatted and drank beer.
“We’re really happy to be out,” said Niko Privado, who brought his three brightly colored Macaws to the park, each tethered to a portable perch. “It’s only the second time we’ve been able to take them out (since the lockdown),” he said, watched by his wife and daughter.
Nearby, however, a woman working at an ice cream van said business was far from brisk despite the crowds and warm weather.
“It’s very bad — only three to four people every hour,” said Zara Safat. “It’s social distancing and they don’t want to wait in long queues.”
Reuters / AP / ANSA