After days of leaks and harsh controversies within the majority and between the government and the regions, on Thursday evening Giuseppe Conte finally made public the Prime Ministerial Decree that will regulate the life of Italians starting from Friday until mid-January.
The hardline approach for the holiday period is confirmed: from December 21 until January, it will not be possible to move between the regions (not even to get to second homes), even while the Prime Minister himself has said that “plausibly, within two weeks, all Italy will be [a] yellow [area].”
On the most crucial days, Christmas, December 26 and New Year’s Eve, people won’t even be able to go outside of their municipality. As for the exceptions, Conte said that those who cohabit will still be able to see each other in the house where they both reside and that it will be possible to move “to assist non-self-sufficient elderly people.”
The exceptions are thus cut to the bare minimum: those who want to spend Christmas with their elderly but self-sufficient parents will not be able to do so, according to the words of the Prime Minister. On these two points, there was a break with the regions, but the main new element is that there is a split within the PD as well. As many as 25 senators (out of 35) and about thirty deputies (out of 90) have written letters to their group leaders, Andrea Marcucci (who had fought on Wednesday to loosen the restrictions) and Graziano Delrio, to say “no” to the Christmas lockdown.
The letters have been signed by parliamentarians from various wings of the PD, from the former Renzians of the Reformist Base, to the followers of Maurizio Martina, to the “Young Turks” of Matteo Orfini. Not, however, by those most loyal to Dario Franceschini and Nicola Zingaretti. The letters were delivered to Marcucci to show that the demands to soften the restrictions were not “made in a personal capacity.” The group leader of the PD tried to press Conte until the very last moment to avoid the situation in which millions of Italians will be blocked in their small municipalities, perhaps with their children or parents just a few kilometers away: “It is necessary to make family and emotional reunions possible, even for a few hours.”
This appeal was shared by the presidents of the regions, who met with Conte in the afternoon, but to no avail. It was not, however, shared by the mayors, who defended the government’s decisions.
The hardline approach won out, and in the night between Wednesday and Thursday, during the meeting of the Council of Ministers that passed the Legislative Decree that will serve as the framework for the Prime Ministerial Decree, the two Renzian ministers, Teresa Bellanova (Agriculture) and Elena Bonetti (Family), wished to put on the record their “strong opposition” to restrictions that “have no scientific basis.” It was a slap in the face to Conte and Speranza, who, ever since March, have always motivated the restrictions based on the data of the epidemic.
Zingaretti has spoken out against the rebellion in the ranks of the PD: “In 24 hours, almost 1,000 people have died because of COVID. In the last 15 days, more than 10,000 have died. Those who don’t understand how important it is to keep vigilance at a high level with strict rules should reflect on that.”
There were very strong conflicts inside the majority (as the M5S defended the Prime Minister) and inside the PD, not to mention in the relations between the government and the regions. “There is astonishment and regret at the lack of a dialogue,” the regions accused, claiming above all that the government failed to balance “the measures of containment with the context of family and social relations that is typical of Christmas.” The ban on movement between municipalities was called “loony” by Lombardy President Attilio Fontana, while Luca Zaia demanded to know “which health specialist has endorsed such a thing.” The Minister for Regional Affairs, Francesco Boccia, had this to say in reply: “Their astonishment is incomprehensible. The rules were discussed over two meetings that lasted 7 hours.”
Regarding the details, until mid-January, the curfew remains in effect from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m., extended to 7 a.m. on New Year’s Eve; restaurants will be open at lunchtime (also on Christmas, Boxing Day and January 1) but will close at 6 pm; ski lifts will be closed from today until January 7, and hotels will remain open, but on the evening of December 31 customers will only be able to dine in their rooms.
There is a mandatory quarantine for those who will return from trips abroad, and also for foreign tourists who will come to Italy. The shopping centers will be closed on weekends (but the other stores will remain open until 9 p.m. from today until January 6 in order to “allow for shopping and the exchange of gifts,” the Prime Minister said). Cruises will also be stopped until January 7, a restriction fought by Italia Viva until the last second.
Regarding dinners and lunches, Conte reiterated the “strong recommendation to have these remain between cohabitants only,” so no visits from relatives or friends. “It will be a different Christmas, but not a less authentic one on this account,” he explained in a press conference during which he praised the actions taken by his government, on the pandemic and not only: “The results are showing that we are not doing bad work.” He added: “The Rt index has dropped to 0.91. But if we approach the holidays with the rules of the yellow areas, a new surge in contagions would be inevitable, a third wave as violent as the first two. We have to avoid it.”
It was a press conference in which Conte took questions on all the topics on the agenda except for the Prime Ministerial Decree. He talked about the ESM, the Recovery Fund, ILVA, Autostrade, even the controversy over his campaign and rumors of a cabinet reshuffle: “That’s a word that makes me shudder. Those are institutions of the old politics, which are foreign to me. My ministers are the best. We are not here to tread water.”
Meanwhile, the opposition manned the barricades: while the Prime Minister was speaking, they took the floor in the Chamber of Deputies. “Such oppressive limitations of the Italians’ right to movement are not acceptable, this Prime Ministerial Decree goes beyond the intentions that were communicated to Parliament. Conte must come before the Chamber immediately,” railed Mariastella Gelmini.
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