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Italians left in confusion over patchwork plans for 'Phase 2' to ease restrictions

 

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Safety: Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte wears a mask while out in public last week. Photo: Roberto Monaldo/LaPresse via AP

Safety: Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte wears a mask while out in public last week. Photo: Roberto Monaldo/LaPresse via AP

AP

Safety: Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte wears a mask while out in public last week. Photo: Roberto Monaldo/LaPresse via AP

Millions of Italians head back to work today amid mounting frustration and confusion over their government's 'Phase 2' for easing lockdown restrictions.

Yesterday, the government issued guidelines to law-­enforcement agencies urging "prudent and fair" policing of new rules and restrictions on movements, which start today and will remain in place until May 17.

However, as regional authorities can pass their own tailor-made regulatory acts, Italians are complaining of a complicated patchwork of "do's and don'ts".

Italy has one of the world's highest death tolls, with 28,884 fatalities from Covid-19 since the outbreak began in mid-February. The high numbers prompted its government to adopt a slow and staggered approach to ending the lockdown and "coexisting with the virus" until there is a vaccine.

While 4.5 million workers go back to their jobs in manufacturing and strategic sectors today, and people in "stable relationships" are allowed to visit each other, an easing of restrictions on stores and commercial activities is set for May 18 and more businesses, such as restaurants, bars and hairdressers, will open on June 1.

Italians have had to adapt to at least half a dozen versions of the self-certification form they must carry with them at all times and the new softer restrictions that came into force today raised a host of new questions.

The confusion was only worsened by guidelines issued by the government over the weekend, which quickly became the butt of widespread criticism and mockery on social media.

These said visits to distant relatives would be allowed, including the children of cousins, or the cousins of spouses.

It added that visits to anyone with whom one had "a stable bond of affection" were permitted - implying seeing romantic partners was allowed, but leaving many wondering whether they were allowed to visit friends.

Later, an off-the-record message to media outlets from the prime minister's office explained that visits to friends were still not permitted.

A sense of confusion has also stemmed from Italy's devolved power structure, with some regional authorities threatening to flout the rules and go it alone in reopening activities.

In Sicily, Sardinia and Emilia Romagna, for instance, people are allowed to go to their second homes for upkeep, while in Tuscany it is forbidden.

Face masks are obligatory in Lombardy, Veneto, Piedmont and Emilia Romagna, while in Lazio they are required only if you are conversing with another person. Fishing is allowed in Puglia, Marche and Lombardy, but most beaches will remain closed.

"We are still in the full throes of the pandemic," Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said, warning 'Phase 2' should not be considered a full return to normality.

For weeks, Mr Conte and the committees he formed to manage the crisis have said Phase 2 will be about learning to "coexist with the virus".

But after 55 days of complying with some of the world's strictest quarantine measures, Italians appear to be growing weary of heavy-handed government restrictions.

Business owners in the hospitality sector have begun staging symbolic protests at the slowness of the reopening and even the Italian Bishop's Conference expressed dismay that holding Mass was still prohibited. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Telegraph.co.uk