Home by 10pm or midnight? Italy considers relaxing its curfew from next week

As the Italian government begins to ease coronavirus restrictions, one measure still hotly disputed is the nightly 10pm curfew. Could it be pushed back next week? Here's what we know so far.

Home by 10pm or midnight? Italy considers relaxing its curfew from next week
Will the Italian government relax the current curfew of 10pm? (Photo by Miguel MEDINA / AFP)

The political debate continues about the nightly ban on movement between 10pm and 5am, especially since restaurants were allowed to re-open for dinner in low-risk yellow zones.

A change to the measure might come into force as early as next week, and could see the curfew pushed back to 11pm or midnight. Or, if some politicians get their way, it could even be scrapped altogether ahead of the summer season.

READ MORE: Quarantine, curfew and weddings: What rules will Italy relax next?

So who’s for and against the change?

Broadly, the right-wing League and its supporters are pushing for the curfew to be relaxed or scrapped.

Though not ruling it out, Health Minister Roberto Speranza is taking a more cautious view, calling for a more gradual approach based on the latest data.

Italy’s Health Minister Roberto Speranza isn’t against relaxing the curfew, but urges caution. (Photo: POOL / AFP)

It’s another tug of war between boosting the economy and protecting public health.

“Re-openings, re-openings, re-openings,” urged League leader Matteo Salvini. “Back to work, day and night and without curfew, trusting the Italians.” 

Others are also for easing measures without scrapping them altogether.

Friuli Venezia-Giulia’s governor Massimiliano Fedriga has called for a more relaxed curfew of 11pm to 5am. Interior Ministry undersecretary Carlo Sibilia, on the other hand, is in favour of starting the curfew at midnight.

READ MORE: What will Italy’s coronavirus rules be for summer 2021?

Thinking of the summer season, Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio has also called for “lighter measures to attract tourists to Italy”.

Easing the curfew by an hour or two would surely make for a more a relaxed dining experience.

Any decision will depend on the latest weekly epidemiological data, released every Friday by Italy’s top health institute, the ISS. The figures have been slowly improving for several weeks now.

“Given that the choice comes down to politics, and given that Friday’s numbers will be used to make decisions, I believe that there is scope for a further extension of the time when movement is restricted,” commented the head of the government’s committee of scientific advisors, Franco Locatelli.

“As for whether it’s 11pm or midnight, that’s up to the government,” he told Italian TV channel Rai3 on Wednesday.

READ MORE: Will Italy relax the Covid mask-wearing rules this summer?

Other health experts have expressed concern about the talk of relaxing curfew. Massimo Galli, director of Infectious Diseases at Milan’s Sacco Hospital, told Rai3: “I realise that there are the needs of those who have their main economic activity in the evening and are not able to survive, but that’s another matter from a strictly epidemiological point of view.”

He conceded that some contact is inevitable in order to keep the country moving, but there had to be sacrifice or “downsizing” somewhere.

It’s a sentiment echoed by Andrea Crisanti, director of the Department of Microbiology at the University of Padua: “The curfew reduces the likelihood of people meeting each other and therefore transmitting the virus,” he told TV news programme LA7.

READ ALSO: Who is eligible for a Covid-19 vaccine in your region of Italy?

France recently announced plans to phase out its curfew by the end of June, while Spain scrapped its curfew altogether this week – prompting street parties and a rebuke from the government.

Meanwhile Germany says people who have been fully vaccinated are exempt from curfew and other rules.

Italy’s government is expected to announce a decision after Prime Minister Mario Draghi next meets with the cabinet on Monday May 17th, making Tuesday May 18th the earliest date that the curfew could change.

Monday’s meeting is also expected to result in new plans for the reopening of travel, indoor dining, gyms, shopping centres and other businesses over the coming weeks.

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Italy’s government to continue sending weapons to Ukraine in 2023

Italy's new government issued a decree on Thursday to continue sending weapons to Ukraine through 2023, continuing the previous administration's policy of support to Kyiv.

Italy's government to continue sending weapons to Ukraine in 2023

The decree extends to December 31, 2023 an existing authorisation for “the transfer of military means, materials and equipment to the government authorities of Ukraine,” according to a government statement.

Since taking office in October, Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni has repeatedly voiced her support for Kyiv while underlying the importance of the Atlantic alliance.

In her first speech to parliament, the leader of the Brothers of Italy party pledged to “continue to be a reliable partner of NATO in supporting Ukraine.”

Her predecessor Mario Draghi was a staunch supporter of Kyiv, but the issue of sending arms to Ukraine split the biggest party in parliament during his coalition government, the Five Star Movement.

That friction led to the early elections that brought Meloni to power.

Parliament now has 60 days to vote the decree into law.

READ ALSO: Outcry in Italy after Berlusconi defends Putin’s invasion of Ukraine

Despite Meloni’s efforts to reassure her Western allies of Italy’s support for the EU’s and NATO’s Ukraine strategy, including sanctions on Russia, the close ties to Russia of her two coalition partners have come under scrutiny.

Both Matteo Salvini of the League party and former premier Silvio Berlusconi, who leads Forza Italia, have long enjoyed warm relations with Russia.

In October, an audio tape of Berlusconi was leaked to the media in which the former premier described how he had received a birthday present of vodka from Russian President Vladimir Putin.

In the tape, he also expressed concerns about sending weapons and cash to Kyiv and appeared to blame the war on Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky.

Berlusconi later issued a statement saying his personal position on Ukraine “does not deviate” from that of Italy and the EU.

Since the beginning of the war in Ukraine, Salvini, too, has come under fire for his relations with Moscow, including a report that he dined with Russia’s ambassador to Rome just days after that country’s invasion of Ukraine.

Salvini, who has criticised EU sanctions as ineffective, has long admired Putin, even wearing T-shirts emblazoned with the Russian leader’s face.