While Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte acknowledged that the country’s economy could go back 20 years due to the coronavirus crisis, Italy reopened this week its internal borders and European tourism to start a new phase of coexistence with COVID-19 within the so-called “new normal”.
In addition, the return of free movements within the territory occurs in a context of strong heterogeneity in the scope of the virus in the country, with three northern regions accounting for 70% of cases, and the eight southern regions that add less than 10% of current positives.
After almost three months of quarantine, the economic consequences of the pandemic are already beginning to be visible in a country where, according to the statistical entity ISTAT, only in April 240,000 jobs were lost, and in which 13% of businesses are still could not reopen after 80 days of closure.
In this context, Conte recognized that the Italian Gross Domestic Product (GDP) will fall to 2000 levels, and warned that “the health emergency was immediately joined by an economic emergency that we are not yet in a position to know how far it will go.”
Along the same lines, the Governor of the Italian Central Bank, Ignazio Visco, this week projected(on Forbes) a drop in GDP of between 9 and 13%.
Despite the government arranging a €55 billion package to deal with the crisis, the conservative opposition took to the streets this week and marched in more than 60 cities across the country to call for more measures for workers and companies, from claims for higher funds for unemployment insurance to a general tax cut.
With the economic plan turned into an axis of the opposition, the government also had to overcome the cross-pressures of the governors before finishing defining the times and scope of the rehabilitation of internal displacement, in force since mid-week.
While three of the five regions with the largest contribution to the national GDP, Lombardy, Emilia-Romagna, and Piedmont, account for 70% of infections. Prime Minister Conte had to reconcile the idea of a homogeneous reopening for the entire Italian territory with the claims of the Governors of the South to establish strong control measures for travelers arriving from the North.
Thus, the government had to qualify as “unconstitutional” the request of the southern regions that receive more tourism, such as the islands of Sardinia and Sicily, to create a “health permit” to move around the country, and finally opted to allow each region keeps tourist data for 14 days for the eventual traceability of new infections.
The reopening of internal borders, as well as the empowerment for European tourists without the need for a mandatory quarantine, was one of the demands of the country’s powerful tourism sector, which contributes 13% of GDP and sets the pace of activity for several of the most important cities in the country, including the capital Rome.
Thus, in the city of Rome, dozens of bars and restaurants continue to be closed in the most touristic areas, such as the surroundings of the Vatican or the Trevi Fountain, awaiting more government measures for the culinary sector.
The reopening of the museums this week was another support for the tourism and commerce sector, especially with the three most visited paid places in Italy, the Roman Colosseum, the Vatican Museums, and the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, after more than 80 days closed.
With the return of European tourism, Conte managed to appease much of the area’s claims anyway, although the lack of reciprocity from countries such as Austria and Greece forced the premier to publicly demand that there be no “discriminatory measures” for Italians who want to spend summer outside their country.
In any case, after more than 33,000 victims since the start of the pandemic, the figures show that the easing of measures that began on May 4, more than a month ago, did not cause a jump in contagions or in the victims of coronavirus in Italy, but was the starting point of a marked decline in both deaths and the level of new positives.
However, the government confirmed today 72 new deaths from coronavirus since Friday and another 270 new cases that bring the total number of infections by the virus to 234,801 and the deaths to 33,846, according to the balance provided by Civil protection authorities.
This balance represents a daily decrease in both deaths and positives compared to the 85 fatalities and 518 infections yesterday but maintains the constant in the Lombardy region as the focus of the disease.