MAY 4, PHASE TWO, ITALY STARTS TO RE-OPEN
The long-awaited partial reopening of what is hoped will be a post-coronavirus Italy began today. Italians have been patient beyond belief in bearing with some of the strictest lockdown rules and regulations imaginable. And, though they handled things with much grace and humor – and music! – for the first five or six weeks, nerves have recently begun to fray.
Parents unused to having their children at home all day have been home-schooling or accompanying their offspring through online lessons for 8 weeks. Too often they find themselves unable to help a son or daughter with a subject they know little or nothing about. They also find they cannot take the place of their children’s best friends – their BFFs – at a time when there are no social outings, no sports, no walks to a local gelateria, no getting together to listen to music or, simply, just to be together.
People used to working in social settings or who own businesses conducive to gatherings – restaurants, coffee and snack bars, ice cream stores, hair salons and barbers, etc – to close and lay off staff and stay at home in strict confinement. No customers, no income, yet payments due on rent and utilities and business licenses.
One reads daily in the nation’s papers about government provisions such as unemployment payments, small business loans, etc, etc. but there are just as many articles outlining how individuals and businesses have yet to see a cent.
An estimated 4.4 million people returned to work today, with just a few categories of businesses re-opening. Restaurants, bars, hair salons and many other services have yet to see a green light. And when they do there will be such serious restrictions that many will question whether it is worth it to be open.
Some headlines say that if there is an increase in cases, Italy will close down again. However, I believe that a new case or cases would demand tracing. If someone goes shopping or to get take-out food or to go to church (when allowed), and a week later becomes ill, how will doctors know where that happened? Did they take a bus or taxi? Did they walk a bit to get to destination? Did they pass other people on the way? Did they stop for a take-out coffee or ice cream on the way? Did they always have a mask and gloves? Did they remove them briefly?
So many questions. I have always felt that tracing has been the weakest link in this entire chain of events.
Following are some bullet points I’ve put together about Italy’s coronavirus Phase Two re-opening. I did not go out today myself but I felt I heard a few more cars than normal on the major street in front of my building – just a few, mind you. Italian TV reports a fair increase in traffic on major roads and highways, and greater numbers of people boarding busses and trains for work, all the while obeying social distancing and other restrictions.
WHAT MAY 4 RE-OPENING ALLOWS – AND DOESN’T
Some industries and stores re-open.
Public transport: increase in number of busses in cities. Train and bus terminals have police doing so-called ‘crowd’ control: keeping at least one meter (3 feet) distance between people entering stations or metros or busses; seats marked where people can or cannot sit, floors marked where people can stand, etc. When busses or train carriages have reached their maximum number, no more people allowed to board. If a bus has reached its allowable number, it will not stop at next scheduled bus stop to pick up more people (until or unless someone gets off)
Visiting relatives is allowed but not friends. Government allows visits between “congiunti” an ill-defined word in Italian law but one that basically means kin or relative. Government has extended that and it seems to include engaged couples and people in same sex unions.
Family reunions and large gatherings not allowed, in homes or in public.
Visiting grandparents allowed: keep social distance (who on earth is going to check that!): staying for a meal OK.
Social distancing obligatory in taxis – no one in front seat with driver, only two in back seat. Distancing obligatory in private cars if people not related (thus, one driving and the other person in the back seat).
There may be 2 people on a motorbike provided they are related of live together (2 members of the same family or a married couple).
Going to the beach is allowed if one goes for sport (‘motor activity’) such as swimming, surfing, etc but not just to sunbathe.
Funerals OK but no more than 15 people, masks and social distancing, etc. obligatory.
No definitive word yet on when churches can be open to the public for Masses but two dates suggested for “progressive normality” re-opening are May 24 (Ascension) and May 31 Pentecost). Talks between Italian government and church hierarchy ongoing. It seems that churches will all receive thermal scanners but there have been pastors who have already told the bishops they do not intend to use them. It is to be expected that masks, perhaps gloves and for sure social distancing will be required. There was a meeting on Saturday, May 2 in the Vatican between Pope Francis and the head of CEI, the Italian Episcopal Conference, Archbishop Gualtiero Bassetti.
Masks obligatory in public enclosed spaces (stores, transport etc) not necessarily while walking on street. Gloves to be worn in public spaces.
If you have a professional ID, have it available for officials who might question you.
Going to second home (a country or seaside or mountain vacation home) prohibited.
Parents may take children to parks but social distancing must be respected at all times. No gathering with other families and their children.
Some (but very few) restaurants and coffee bars may function but only for carry out: food may not be eaten in vicinity of restaurant, bar, etc.
Shopping is OK only at stores allowed to open. However, home deliveries of items ordered online, etc. are allowed, always respecting social distancing, wearing mask and gloves with delivery person.
Travel within the region where one lives (Rome is in the region of Lazio) is OK (except for going to second home), but not between regions (unless you leave a region where you were working and in lockdown to go to the region where you are domiciled).
Italy’s various regions are approaching all of the above-mentioned rules and regulations with a variety of responses, some more amenable to re-opening and others sticking more closely to central government regulations. Where the virus has been present in small numbers (ie Calabria), restaurants and bars are open to patrons with outside tables.
Regions near bodies of water vary with their permission to use boats or go fishing
Region of Campania (Naples, the Amalfi coast) – no boat trips allowed to islands (Ischia, Capri, etc)