Report. Thursday’s data showed a surge of new cases, with 2,548 in the previuos 24 hours. The COVID-19 pandemic has returned to cause fear in Italy.

Italy extends lockdown powers as COVID curve swings upward in the South

“We will go to Parliament to request the extension of the state of emergency until January 31,” was the news announced by Prime Minister Conte on Thursday morning from a school in Caserta which he visited together with Minister Azzolina. The setting was no coincidence, even if the decision was taken the night before during the meeting of the Council of Ministers at the suggestion of the Scientific Technical Committee: the COVID-19 pandemic has returned to cause fear in Italy as well, where in recent months the rising European contagion seemed to have found more resistance. But above all, this is worrying for the regions of central-southern Italy, because the contagion curve is now clearly rising and the number of people hospitalized in ICUs—not exactly the pride of Southern Italy—is growing.

Thursday’s data showed a surge of new cases, with 2,548 in the previous 24 hours, while there was also an increase in the number of swabs: 118,236, 13,000 more than the day before. However, the number of deaths has also increased to 24 per day, and 11 people were hospitalized in the last hours in intensive care, for a total of 291 patients. The new positives were found mainly in Veneto (445), Campania (390), Lombardy (324) and Lazio with 265 cases, of which 151 in Rome, with a transmissibility index (Rt) over the threshold of 1. This is why the President of the Lazio Region, Nicola Zingaretti, announced that on Friday they might take the decision to mandate the use of the mask for the citizens of Lazio, including outdoors.

Then, there is the snapshot published on a weekly basis by the Gimbe Foundation, which shows a far from reassuring situation: in the last week, there was “a further increase in the trend of new cases (12,114 vs. 10,907) against a slight increase in the cases tested (394,396 vs. 385,324).” Since mid-July, as we read in the report, “the new weekly cases have increased from just over 1,400 to over 12,000, with an increase in the ratio of positive to tested cases from 0.8% to 3.1%, while the current positive cases have more than quadrupled: from 12,482 to 50,630.” With regard to hospitalizations, the Foundation reports, “significant regional differences are beginning to emerge”: namely, “as of September 29, 6 regions, almost all from Central and Southern Italy, recorded hospitalization rates per 100,000 inhabitants higher than the national average of 5.5: Lazio (12.2), Liguria (10.6), Campania (7.8), Sardinia (7.4), Sicily (6.2) and Puglia (5.6).”

In this context, and with a series of procurements all still to be managed for the current “phase 3”—for example in schools, where most institutions are still waiting for the single-seat desks and rapid test kits—the work of the extraordinary commissioner Domenico Arcuri is not finished, and the government intends to ask to maintain “extraordinary powers” until (at least) January 31. However, the situation is delicate: the state of emergency decreed on January 31, 2020 until July 31 has already been extended once, and it is set to expire on October 15. Certainly, the data on the pandemic seems to support the request, which would allow the government to manage with flexibility not only the tenders for the procurement of the equipment needed to combat the contagion, but also the imposition of restrictions on personal freedom, freedom of movement and the free market (the advisors of Minister Speranza seem to be advocating for a lockdown for the South).

Then, particularly important is the issue of work and the possibility for some workers to use smart working, already extended until December 31 for employees of the public administration (yesterday, after the cases of the two positive M5S senators, the PD’s Ceccanti presented a draft amendment to the Chamber Rules, “inspired by those in force at the Spanish Chamber of Deputies, to regulate in a strict manner, which is currently unavoidable, the remote participation of Deputies in the work of the Chamber”).

However, even disregarding the right’s protests, which is trying to exploit the paranoid tendencies resulting from deep social malaise (“Why are we the only nation in Europe to still be in a state of emergency?” Meloni is asking), there is no doubt that a new wave of Prime Ministerial Decrees and legislative decrees should be avoided as much as possible. In fact, the PD has asked to put some very precise limits on the special powers granted to government and the Civil Protection.

There is also a level to the decisions to be taken to fight the contagion that cannot remain confined within national borders. This topic was discussed by Premier Conte last night during the meeting with President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen, and is also planned to be discussed at the Global Health Summit, the G20 summit dedicated to Covid-19 that will be held next year in Italy.

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