Covid-19: Protesters clash with Italian police over business closures

Protestors clashed with police in Rome for a second week running on Monday as small business owners and employees demonstrated against continued Covid-19 closures across the country.

Covid-19: Protesters clash with Italian police over business closures
Riot police block protesters from heading towards the prime minister's offce in central Rome during a demonstration on Monday. Photo: Alberto Pizzoli/AFP

Around 200 people tried to reach prime minister Mario Draghi’s office, but were held back by lines of police in riot gear, Reuters reports. 

Some protesters hurled stones and bottles at the police and let off fireworks, filling the street with smoke.

Protesters during skirmishes with riot police in Rome’s Piazza San Silvestro on April 12th. Photos: Alberto Pizzoli/AFP

There were similar clashes with police last week during a protest outside parliament, organised by the same group.

Some Italian media reported that far-right groups including Casapound had hijacked the protests, triggering the violence on both occasions.

The demonstration in the city’s central Piazza San Silvestro had initially been organised by a movement called ‘Io Apro’ (meaning “I will open”), which includes restaurant, bar and other business owners who have said they’ll reopen despite the rules currently forbidding them to.

“The problem is we just don’t know what to do. They tell us that we can only do take-aways, but in my neighbourhood with a population of 3,000, what kind of take-aways can I do?” said Silvio Bessone, a chef from the northern Piedmont region.

Chefs prepare to take part in the protest central Rome on Monday. Photo: Alberto Pizzoli/AFP
People holding placards reading “The Puppet Show has ended (Opera de Pupi Finiu)”, “In a world of dragons the restaurants are burning”, a play on words with the surname of current Italian prime minister Mario Draghi. Photo: Alberto Pizzoli/AFP

The whole country remains under tough restrictions meaning bars and restaurants can only serve takeout and delivery, while other businesses such as bars and gyms must remain closed.

While Italy’s first national lockdown in March 2020 was widely accepted, there have been protests since October over renewed measures.

There has been growing unrest in recent weeks after the government said current tight restrictions, which amount to a lockdown in many areas, would stay in place until at least April 30th.

The Italian government has not yet provided a clear plan for the country’s exit from the current lockdown.

Member comments

  1. With opening things up, spare a thought for the hospital staff and first responders, many who have died or been left with long term damage due to COVID-19. Italian hospitals were last year overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients and watching it all unfold from Australia was heartbreaking, listening to medical staff. I don’t understand why the public would want to put hospitals and their staff under that sort of pressure again.

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Covid face mask rule on flights in Europe set to be eased

The mandatory EU-wide mask requirement for air travel is set to be dropped from Monday, May 16th, but airlines may still require passengers to wear masks on some or all flights

Covid face mask rule on flights in Europe set to be eased

Europe-wide facemask rules on flights are set to be ditched as early as next week in light of new recommendations from health and air safety experts.

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) dropped recommendations for mandatory mask-wearing in airports and during flights in updated Covid-19 safety measures for travel issued on Wednesday, May 11th.

The new rules are expected to be rolled out from Monday, May 16th, but airlines may still continue to require the wearing of masks on some or all of flights. And the updated health safety measures still say that wearing a face mask remains one of the best ways to protect against the transmission of the virus.

The joint EASA/ECDC statement reminded travellers that masks may still be required on flights to destinations in certain countries that still require the wearing of masks on public transport and in transport hubs.

It also recommends that vulnerable passengers should continue to wear a face mask regardless of the rules, ideally an FFP2/N95/KN95 type mask which offers a higher level of protection than a standard surgical mask.

“From next week, face masks will no longer need to be mandatory in air travel in all cases, broadly aligning with the changing requirements of national authorities across Europe for public transport,” EASA executive director Patrick Ky said in the statement. 

“For passengers and air crews, this is a big step forward in the normalisation of air travel. Passengers should however behave responsibly and respect the choices of others around them. And a passenger who is coughing and sneezing should strongly consider wearing a face mask, for the reassurance of those seated nearby.”  

ECDC director Andrea Ammon added: “The development and continuous updates to the Aviation Health Safety Protocol in light of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic have given travellers and aviation personnel better knowledge of the risks of transmission of SARS-CoV-2 and its variants. 

“While risks do remain, we have seen that non-pharmaceutical interventions and vaccines have allowed our lives to begin to return to normal. 

“While mandatory mask-wearing in all situations is no longer recommended, it is important to be mindful that together with physical distancing and good hand hygiene it is one of the best methods of reducing transmission. 

“The rules and requirements of departure and destination states should be respected and applied consistently, and travel operators should take care to inform passengers of any required measures in a timely manner.”