2020欧洲杯网站

Bars and restaurants in Italy allowed to reopen a fortnight ahead of schedule

Government's original exit strategy had decreed that bars and restaurants could not reopen until June 1

Staff at a bar in Taormina in Sicily prepare to reopen as Italy begins to ease coronavirus restrictions 
Staff at a bar in Taormina in Sicily prepare to reopen as Italy begins to ease coronavirus restrictions  Credit: Reuters

Bars, restaurants and hairdressers in Italy are to open next week, a fortnight earlier than scheduled, after the government bowed to pressure from frustrated business owners.

The government’s original exit strategy decreed that bars, restaurants and hair salons should remain closed until June 1, to minimise the chances of a new spike in coronavirus infections in the third worst-affected country in the world.

But the coalition in Rome has said they can open up next Monday, with the final decision left in the hands of the country’s 20 regional governments.

Regions with low infection rates and death tolls, including many in the south of Italy, have long argued that they should be allowed to move towards normality more quickly than the likes of Lombardy in the north, which accounts for around half of Italy’s 30,000 fatalities.

A banner reading "Without government aid, we cannot reopen on May 18. Thousands of employees at risk" in a shop window in Rome Credit: AFP

2020欧洲杯网站"The regions will receive guidelines on opening bars, restaurants, hairdressers and beauty clinics from May 18," Luigi di Maio, the foreign minister, wrote on Twitter.

Regional leaders welcomed the government’s amended timetable. "Prime Minister Conte has accepted our request for autonomy," said Giovanni Toti, the governor of Liguria in the north-west.

Next Monday will also see the reopening of shops in Italy, more than two months after they were shuttered as part of the lockdown.

The national government said it would intervene and order closures if there is an increase in Covid-19 cases.

“The regions will remain in constant contact with the government so we can intervene straightaway if necessary,” said Giuseppe Conte, the prime minister.

Italians are still not allowed to travel from region to region, unless it is for urgent necessity or work reasons. That rule may not be reviewed until late this month.

With many businesses saying they face bankruptcy, there are fears that Italy’s mafia organisations will swoop in and buy them up at discount rates, laundering the proceeds from drug trafficking and other illegal activities.

Those concerns were given credence on Tuesday when police arrested 91 alleged Mafiosi, accusing them of targeting companies hit hard by the crisis.

The suspects, accused of crimes ranging from extortion and money laundering to fraud, belong to two clans from Sicily’s Cosa Nostra mafia.

“Look, we pay cash,” suspects told business owners in intercepted exchanges, according to Francesco Lo Voi, chief prosecutor in Palermo. Police seized €15 million worth of assets, including a dozen racehorses.