Reportage. Many of the shops and restaurants in Milan will not reopen for the Monday restart. And a portion of them will likely never reopen again.

Between uncertainty and fear, a difficult restart in hard-hit Lombardy

What will reopen on Monday in Lombardy? “All of us want to open,” said the manager of a restaurant near Via Savona as he was fixing the place up.

“But we still don’t know exactly what safety regulations we have to respect. We have read in the newspapers that we’ll have to keep a distance of one meter between one customer and another, but what else do we have to do? Take their temperature when they come in? Put Plexiglas panels between tables? How should we sanitize?”

Like him, many bartenders, restaurateurs, hairdressers and shopkeepers are still waiting for definitive guidelines from the region. The regulation for the province of Lombardy is set to arrive on Sunday, incorporating the latest government guidelines.

Mayor Sala has spoken about 2,200 clothing stores, 2,900 hairdressers, 4,800 bars, 3,400 restaurants and 700 shoe stores in Milan. But how many of them will reopen?

“From Monday, many of the shops will reopen, and after staying at home for a long time we will all want to drink a good coffee at the bar, eat a pizza, buy a pair of jeans or go to the hairdresser,” Sala said. “We are not talking about the Milanese economy, but about the life of individual families, small entrepreneurs who live above their shops. They’re in trouble, and I think the time has truly come to give them a hand.”

According to President Attilio Fontana, gyms and museums are among the facilities that will not reopen. But once again, just one day before the possible reopening, nothing is certain. For this reason, the cultural institutions, museums and libraries of the city of Milan will remain closed.

“Opening them to the public is a complex and multi-stage operation, and it cannot be arranged from one day to the next,” explained Milan’s City Councilor for Culture, Filippo Del Corno. “While we’re waiting for an official decision, we have decided not to open the civic museums and municipal libraries as was planned: instead, we will use this week for a closed-door trial run of all safety and sanitation protocols, with particular attention paid to the verification of temperature and humidity parameters.”

He had a message for the Region: “We are asking to have a perspective of certainty, with precise rules and a timetable, and to no longer have to watch Fontana’s interviews in order to understand the directions we have to follow.” There is uncertainty, caution and fear. As we walk through Milan, we see many closed shutters of businesses bearing the words “Business for sale” or “For rent.” According to Confcommercio, a third of businesses will not reopen tomorrow, and a part of them will never reopen again.

However, we must also look at the other side of the coin: how many residents of Lombardy will have enough confidence to go to shops, restaurants or hairdressers immediately? The uncertainty of the rules could fuel even more fear in the Italian region with the most cases of COVID-19, which on Saturday exceeded the official number of infected in China: 84,518 for Lombardy compared to 84,038 for China.

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