Protests in Italy over virus restrictions

Protests in Italy over virus restrictions

Police secure a street during clashes in Rome, Italy (Mauro Scrobogna/LaPresse via AP)

Protesters set bins on fire and police responded with hydrant sprays in Rome on Tuesday night, part of a day of public outpouring of anger against coronavirus-fighting measures.

It was a fifth straight night of violent protest in Italy, following recent local overnight curfews in areas including Naples and Rome.

After protests on Monday night turned violent in the financial capital of Milan, police arrested 28 people.

And in Italy’s industrial northern city of Turin, at least 11 were arrested.

All of Europe is grappling with how to halt a fall resurgence of the virus before its hospitals become overwhelmed again.

Nightly curfews have been implemented in French cities. Schools must close at 6pm.

Schools have been closed in Northern Ireland and the Czech Republic.

Protesters have been demonstrating against coronavirus restrictions (Mauro Scrobogna/LaPresse via AP)

German officials have ordered de-facto lockdowns in some areas near the Austrian border and new mask-wearing requirements are popping up weekly across the continent, including a nationwide requirement in Russia.

“We would all like to live like before, but there are moments where you have to make tough decisions,” French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said on Tuesday as the government held emergency meetings on the pandemic.

Yet in this new round of restrictions, governments are finding a less compliant public, even as the continent has seen over 250,000 confirmed deaths in the pandemic and last week recorded 46% of the world’s new infections, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Over the weekend, police used pepper spray against protesters angry over new virus restrictions in Poland.

Spanish doctors staged their first national walkout in 25 years on Tuesday to protest against poor working conditions.

Scrambling to ease some of the financial pain caused by the latest restrictions on businesses, Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte’s Cabinet approved five billion euros (£4.5bn) in economic relief.

The measures included extending unemployment benefits for unionised workers for up to six weeks, through January, financial aid for restaurants, cafes, hotels, gyms and ice cream parlours, taxi drivers and other sectors already hit hard by the lockdown earlier this year, and now reeling under the new restrictions with some businesses in danger of folding.

Also allocated were one-time 1,000 euro payments to freelancers in the entertainment industry, pummelled by the cinema and theatre closure, which lasts at least a month.

Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte said another nationwide lockdown would be unavoidable if people ignore the latest restrictions (Fabio Frustaci/Pool Photo via AP)

Mr Conte said the alternative was another national lockdown to avoid overwhelming the national health service. Italy registered more than 22,000 infections since the previous day.

Aiming to avoid lockdown, “we tried to assemble a series of measures with surgical precision with the awareness they would have had a negative impact,” Mr Conte said.

On Tuesday, a dozen restaurant owners protested in front of Milan’s city hall while as many stadium concession stand owners waved banners at the Lombardy regional headquarters.

“No one has thought of us,” said Giacomo Errico, the Lombardy president of FIVA Commercio representing 6,000 concession stand owners in the northern region, among 40,000 nationwide, that have been out of work since February.

Such peaceful protests have been staged up and down the Italian peninsula, while more violent protests erupting at night, increasingly culminating with vandalism, looting and clashes with police.

Italy’s national prosecutor for terrorism and organised crime, Federico Cafiero de Raho, on Tuesday said subversives had infiltrated peaceful protests in the country.

Investigators have also looked into indications that organised crime groups in the Naples area provoked violence at a peaceful protest.

France has warned of possible new lockdowns, include extending existing curfews, fully keeping residents at home on weekends or all week and closing non-essential businesses.

Since curfews were imposed a couple of weeks ago, French police have issued 14,000 fines, the interior minister said on Tuesday.

Doctors are seeing growing pressure on France’s emergency services and intensive care wards, where Covid-19 patients now take up more than half of the beds.

In Spain, the Canary Islands was seeking to pass a law demanding that visitors arrive at the popular archipelago off north-west Africa with proof of a negative Covid-19 test.

Russia, which has world’s fourth highest tally of 1.5 million confirmed cases, is resisting a second lockdown. But with cases rising at over 15,000 a day, the health agency ordered all Russians to wear masks in crowded public spaces, including public transport, and in closed spaces like taxis and elevators.

Dr Michael Ryan, WHO’s emergencies chief, said the European Union’s open borders might even need to be shut down again to “take the heat out of this phase of the pandemic”.

“There’s no question that the European region is an epicentre of disease right now,” he said.

WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said even more stringent measures should be applied to stop the virus.

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