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Italy's end to travel ban raises simmering regional tensions

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Spiritual guidance: Pope Francis holds the Bible aloft as he leads a Mass in the Blessed Sacrament chapel of St Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican.
Photo: Remo Casilli/Reuters

Spiritual guidance: Pope Francis holds the Bible aloft as he leads a Mass in the Blessed Sacrament chapel of St Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican. Photo: Remo Casilli/Reuters

REUTERS

Spiritual guidance: Pope Francis holds the Bible aloft as he leads a Mass in the Blessed Sacrament chapel of St Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican. Photo: Remo Casilli/Reuters

The decision by the Italian government to lift all restrictions on travel across the country from Wednesday has opened a rift among regional governors, who are worried that coronavirus infections will spread.

Italy confirmed the date for allowing free movement between the regions, as it prepares to reopen its borders to international tourism next week.

The decision, announced on Saturday by Health Minister Roberto Speranza, came after the government reviewed the latest regional data on infections, which were considered reassuring.

Italy has been one of the countries worst hit globally by the pandemic, with the outbreak claiming more than 33,000 victims nationally, almost half of them in Lombardy, in the north.

The rate of deaths and new infections, however, has slowed in recent weeks, persuading the government to confirm its plans to allow Italians to move freely between regions for vacations.

But the different rates of infection around the country have resulted in tensions between the northern areas that were most seriously afflicted by the virus, such as Lombardy and Piedmont, and the southern ones, which have had far lower numbers of infections and rely heavily on tourism.

Some regional governors have also raised the idea of imposing a "sanitary passport". The idea was attacked for being "discriminatory and unconstitutional" by Francesco Boccia, the minister for regional affairs.

The regions most concerned about the spread of infection are Sardinia, Sicily, Tuscany and Campania - whose outspoken governor Vincenzo De Luca said reopening all regional borders was "incomprehensible".

As Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte tried to mediate, protesters took to the streets of Rome and Milan on Saturday, expressing anger at the government's weak response to the economic fallout from the pandemic.

Hundreds of so-called "orange vests", a group inspired by the French yellow vest movement and led by Antonio Pappalardo, a former general in the Carabinieri, Italy's military police, converged on Piazza Duomo in Milan, demanding the government's resignation.

In response to the deep economic crisis that has followed the two-month lockdown, the orange vests have called for an exit from the eurozone and a return to the Italian lira. But they also embrace elements of the anti-vaccine movement, with some claiming that "the virus doesn't exist".

In Rome, a few hundred protesters tried to reach the square facing the Italian parliament and were blocked by police in anti-riot gear. After minor scuffles, the group organised a sit-in that paralysed traffic. The protest included activists from the far-right Marcia su Roma ('March on Rome') and neo-fascist movement CasaPound.

Protesters accused Italy's politicians of having "betrayed" the Italian people by leaving them to cope on their own with the dramatic effects of the lockdown.

Italy's economic output is predicted to fall by more than 10pc this year, as workers and businesses struggle to restart the economy.

Meanwhile, some cafés in Paris reopened their terraces over the weekend, ahead of legal restrictions being lifted tomorrow.

Although cafés, bars and restaurants across France can reopen tomorrow, in Paris they will be allowed to serve customers only at outdoor terraces. In most of the rest of the country, customers will be allowed inside.

If the spread of the virus continues to slow, bars and restaurants in Paris should fully reopen from June 22. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent