Coronavirus in Italy: the Decree of April 26 loosens up the restrictions

Coronavirus in Italy: the Decree of April 26 loosens up the restrictions

Dear Readers,

First of all, we hope that all of you are well and happy and–wherever you are in the world–are all able to deal with the coronavirus pandemic without overwhelming difficulties.

Everyone in our Vademecum family is fine and despite being in different parts of the country, we manage to keep in touch through virtual reality. Being a virtuous group, we follow virtually all of the norms and restrictions put in place to keep ourselves and others healthy.

Our Prime Minister, Giuseppe Conte, is also well but appears more and more fatigued as he and his Cabinet try to balance medical, economic and political considerations. On April 26th, the Italian PM, in a live, televised speech, announced measures which would begin to loosen up the restrictions set down in an earlier decree in order to help Italy move into what is being called Phase 2 of the COVID-19 crisis. This is a period of time in which citizens will have to get used to living together with the coronavirus.

Vademecum shared on Twitter a rather thorough BBC article which translates the speech and provisions which will go into effect on May 4th after the long May Day holiday weekend (click here to read the BBC article). However, despite general approval of the new decree, some doubts, disappointment and criticism emerged, as expected in these circumstances.

Here is the full text of the Decree: DECRETO DEL PRESIDENTE DEL CONSIGLIO DEI MINISTRI 26 aprile 2020 (Ulteriori disposizioni attuative del decreto-legge 23 febbraio 2020, n. 6, recante misure urgenti in materia di contenimento e gestione dell’emergenza epidemiologica da COVID-19, applicabili sull’intero territorio nazionale. (20A02352) (GU Serie Generale n.108 del 27-04-2020))

Most people were hoping for everyone to be let free to go out and about as they pleased in a week’s time. This didn’t happen. However, several major changes to the March 12th lockdown decree will be enacted starting the first Monday in May. Firstly, people were happy to learn that though they must remain in their own region, they can go to parks again to walk, run, enjoy the spring sunshine or let their children play. However, local officials will have to ensure that social distancing  is respected.

Furthermore, people will now be allowed to visit relatives living in the same region, solving the emotionally charged issue of children separated from (especially elderly) parents and grandparents from grandchildren (in many, many, many Italian families, grandparents look after pre-school-aged children and older ones after school while parents are working). However, large family gatherings are still prohibited and people are advised to wear masks and keep a distance of one meter when visiting their family members.

Some discussion has arisen regarding the meaning of the term chosen to indicate those who can now be visited. The usual legal term for relatives in Italian is “parenti e affini” meaning blood relatives and in-laws or other relatives ( aunts, uncles and cousins) acquired by marriage. The PM in his speech used the rather vague term “congiunti” which can be translated as relatives but literally means ‘those joined to you.’ It is presumed that the government had in mind a more modern concept of family than the traditional one of husband, wife and children. Nevertheless, it is not clear exactly who can visit whom and whose duty it will be to interpret the degree of relationship allowed for visits.

The new executive order also broadened the previous one to allow funerals, albeit with no more than 15 mourners in attendance and to be held out-of-doors whenever possible. Though most everyone was content to hear that at least the immediate family would be able to honor their loved ones who pass away, an uproar ensued led by the CEI  (Italian Episcopal Council) that deemed the measures regarding religious meetings inadequate: according to Catholic prelates, depriving the faithful of their right to attend mass is an  infringement of religious freedom. Certainly, the government will have to rethink this issue in order to appease priests and parishioners alike while avoiding further spread of contagion.

With this new decree, more industries and manufacturers will be able to restart their production lines if they can ensure proper coronavirus protection measures. The central government also authorized restaurants to reopen for take-away but only if everyone wears masks and keeps the required distance apart. However, in regions where contagion is still high such as Piedmont, governors have decided to postpone this measure until there is a clear downturn in the number of people infected. Some uncertainty also remains as to whether people who have holiday homes in their own region of residence can travel to them. At the moment the answer seems to be negative. However, as clarifications and modifications are pronounced by the government, Vademecum will be sure to post them so as to keep readers up-to-date.

May 18th is a second date for  the loosening up of restrictions. On that day shops can reopen if they can guarantee social distancing and good hygienic conditions. Details will follow but the shopkeepers may have to sanitize shoes and clothing after someone has tried them on.  The proposed reopening date for restaurants, cafés and bars, though with a reduced number of tables,  has been set for June 1st.  Again, proprietors will have to guarantee social distancing and other necessary precautions to protect clients from contagion to the  coronavirus.

The PM did, moreover, make it clear that Phase 2 provisions could be rescinded in areas where the loosening of restrictions results in an (as yet unquantified) increase in cases of COVID-19.

As Italy moves towards a phase of ‘co-habitation’ with COVID-19, to put it in the words of Mr Conte, we are reminded of the Beatle’s song ‘The Long and Winding Road’ as it seems to describe the way back to normal, whatever that was, before this pandemic began. Hopefully  ‘We Can Work it Out’ ‘With a Little Help from [Our] Friends’ until ‘[We] Feel Fine’. (Ah, the Fab Four, you’re always there when we need you!)

Take care, everybody!
All the best,
The Vademecum staff

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