Italy ramps up police checks over Easter to prevent Covid-19 surge

Italy has announced it will reinforce police patrols to clamp down on movements over the Easter weekend, when the whole country will be placed in a national "red" zone.

Italy ramps up police checks over Easter to prevent Covid-19 surge
Police presence will be increased over the Easter weekend. (Photo by Alberto PIZZOLI / AFP)

The Italian government will put an extra 70,000 police officers in the field over Easter in a move to intensify controls and checks.

Areas deemed as the highest risk of spreading Covid-19 are particularly targeted: parks, the coast, stations, streets, highways, ports and airports are all placed under extra surveillance.

“This is not the time to lower our guard, and to let go of that sense of responsibility shown so far – because the progress recorded by the campaign for vaccines finally give a glimpse of a different horizon that will allow us to gradually return to normal,” Italy’s Interior Minister, Luciana Lamorgese, told newspaper Il Messaggero.

“In this very delicate social context, the police forces continue to carry out a careful vigilance and for this I want to thank all the men and women engaged with professionalism in our cities,” she added.

The Ministry of the Interior confirmed the plans on Thursday, who agreed more stringent measures were needed to enforce citizens to comply with the rules of the red zone.

Italy’s Interior Minister Luciana Lamorgese, said the extra police power is ‘rigorous’ but balanced. (Photo by Sven Hoppe / dpa / AFP)

Speaking at the National Committee for Public Order and Safety, Lamorgese said the monitoring throughout the country is “rigorous” but balanced.

READ ALSO: Covid-19: What can you do this Easter in lockdown Italy?

The boost in police presence aims to ensure people don’t bend the slight amendment to the red zone rules over the Easter weekend.

From April 3-5th, people across all of Italy are allowed to move within their region to visit friends and family once a day, between 5am and 10pm. Travel is limited to two adults plus children under 14.

An extra 70,000 agents will be checking people’s movements over the Easter weekend. (Photo by Filippo MONTEFORTE / AFP)

The decision to bolster police checks came after examining the state of public safety and the effects Covid-19 has on the economy.

It’s not the first time Italy has increased security over a national holiday. All major holidays have been granted distinct rules since the pandemic broke out in Italy just over a year ago. Christmas and New Year 2021 saw the country move in and out of lockdown in a bid to curb the spread of the virus at peak times of movement.

READ ALSO: UPDATE: What are Italy’s rules for travel over Easter?

Since the pandemic began, the state has checked 3,894,431 people and 9,795,830 businesses (March 11th 2020 – March 28th 2021).

The police, in conjunction with military operation “Strade Sicure” (Safe Streets), are deployed to Covid-19 hotspots to implement the national lockdown measures. This has also included stepping up checks in areas particularly affected by the virus such as Bergamo.


Some regions face further levels of restrictions. In Tuscany, several cities will see reinforcements with access to beaches denied and entrances to the coast blocked. Liguria, meanwhile has forbidden using boats over the Easter weekend.

READ ALSO: Italy to remain in partial lockdown until end of April

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Italy orders retrial for Americans convicted of killing police officer

Italy’s highest court on Wednesday ordered a retrial for two Americans convicted of killing an Italian police officer during a drugs bust while they were travelling in Rome.

Italy orders retrial for Americans convicted of killing police officer

In a verdict late on Wednesday, the Court of Cassation in Rome overturned the sentences handed to Finnegan Elder, 23, and Gabriel Natale-Hjorth, 22, and granted both a new appeal.

The pair had been sentenced to life in prison in May 2021 for stabbing to death policeman Mario Cerciello Rega while they were teenagers in a drugs’ bust gone wrong two years earlier in Rome.

READ ALSO: American students convicted of murdering Italian police officer

An appeals court in March 2022 reduced their sentences to 24 years for Elder, who wielded the knife, and 22 years for Natale-Hjorth, who helped hide the weapon after the attack. Prosecutors said his actions earlier in the
evening led to the murder.

The court will issue its reasons for the verdict in the coming weeks, and instruct an appeals court on the issues to examine in a new trial.

After the first trial last year, the two friends had begun serving the earlier life sentences, Italy’s harshest punishment, in separate Rome prisons.

The courtroom in Rome during the initial trial of two young US nationals for the murder of an Italian police officer on July 20th, 2020. (Photo by ANDREAS SOLARO / POOL / AFP)

“We are satisfied with the annulment of the sentence,” said Roberto Capra, the lawyer for Elder, whose new appeal is expected to consider aggravating circumstances.

“There will be a new trial on the heart of the matter – whether the carabinieri (police) identified themselves as members of law enforcement,” he added, saying this raised the potential of a new, lower sentence being imposed.

READ ALSO: ‘Worst night of my life’: US student charged with murder of Italian policeman apologises in court

The encounter between the two teenagers and the police officer and his partner on a dark Rome street lasted just 30 seconds.

Elder has admitted to stabbing Cerciello with an 11-inch (28-centimetre) knife, but he and Natale-Hjorth testified they were jumped from behind by Cerciello and his partner Andrea Varriale, both in plain clothes.

They claim they did not know the men were police, believing them to be drug dealers following the Americans’ botched attempt to buy drugs earlier in the evening.

But Varriale, the prosecution’s main witness, testified that he and Cerciello approached the teens from the front and identified themselves as police.

Lawyers for the Americans had sharply criticised the life sentences, Italy’s stiffest penalty.

They argue the lower courts have ignored inconsistencies in the testimony of Varriale – who has admitted to lying after the attack – that give credence to the defendants’ version of events.

The trial was reportedly marred by mistranslations and accusations of “inconsistencies” as well as claims that Rome prosecutors had “hidden evidence”

The murder of Cerciello, who was newly married, scandalised Italy while also raising doubts about police conduct after Natale-Hjorth was blindfolded while in custody.

The officer who blindfolded him was handed a two-month suspended sentence last month.