The Italian government is hoping to extend the current state of emergency, which expires on July 31st, until mid-October, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte told the Senate before the vote on Tuesday.
“The virus continues to evolve and has not run its course. It would be incongruous to abruptly suspend such an effective measure,” Conte he told the Senate in Tuesday’s debate.
Despite criticism from opposition parties, Conte's move won the backing of the Senate. The lower house, where the government enjoys a bigger backing, will vote on the measure on Wednesday.
After weeks of deliberation his cabinet agreed to extend the state of emergency until October. A resolution being drafted by parliament on Tuesday sets the extension date at October 15th, the Ansa news agency reported.
Conte said the extension was “inevitable”, adding “this way the country will be safer”.
“Although the contagion curve and the impact (of Covid-19) on the national health service has reduced significantly, and this encourages us, the figures tell us that the virus continues to circulate in our country,” Conte said.
The state of emergency, brought in at the beginning of the outbreak in Italy, has allowed the government to implement emergency measures quickly through a series of decrees.
Extending the period will allow the government “to extend the necessary measures” and “to remain on guard in order to intervene promptly if there is a worsening of the situation,” Conte explained.
The extension of the state of emergency does not automatically mean that rules put in place under the current emergency decree, valid until July 31st, will be extended.
The current rules, including travel restrictions and the current social distancing and mask-wearing requirements, will be reviewed by ministers as an updated decree is expected to be announced in the coming days.
More than 35,000 people have died from coronavirus in Italy, the first country hit by the global health crisis after China, and more than 246,000 people have been infected.
In May, as rates of infection began to decline, Italy started easing a strict lockdown introduced in early March, which had closed most shops and businesses and restricted the movement of people.