Here is a look at various factors surrounding Italy’s reopening and an outlook on what to expect in the weeks to come.
Italy was one of the countries in Europe to be hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic. Now the lockdown in Italy has started to ease. Here is a look at various factors surrounding Italy's reopening and an outlook on what to expect in the weeks to come.
A calculated risk
Italy entered a total lockdown on March 10, 2020. Nearly three months of quarantining measures took their toll. Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte decided that the country could no longer wait for a vaccine. Economic activity had to resume. He also admitted that lifting the lockdown would be a calculated risk. The government permitted movement between several regions of the country starting June 3. This was done is full cognizance of the fact that the pandemic is not yet over.
We are not alone
Italy is not the only country in Europe easing its lockdown measures. Switzerland, Germany, France, Spain, Poland, Portugal, and others are also gradually lifting restrictions on movement. However the pandemic had spread wider and deeper in Italy than most of its neighbours. The country recorded more than 243,000 cases of the coronavirus infection and over 33,000 deaths. There are apprehensions that an easing of quarantine this early could pose too much risk. As if to rebut these apprehensions Italy's Health Minister said on June 1 that in the prevailing situation there is no such thing as zero risk. Till such time a vaccine is made available en masse the movement of people poses risks everywhere.
Rays of hope
There are some positive indications of a reversal of the pandemic. More than 177,000 infected people across Italy have successfully recovered. Even so, the country's Health Minister cautioned that continued adherence to social distancing and safety measures is paramount.
The reopening of Italy is vital to the country's economy. Between May 4 and May 18 many businesses were allowed to resume commercial activity. Factories, parks, shops, and restaurants are reopening among strictly enforced social distancing measures. The government also approved a EUR 55 billion stimulus package. This would help compensate businesses for the lost income and help Italy's economy recover faster.
Italy is a magnet for tourists. Following the easing of the lockdown after 10 weeks the country hopes to see an increase in tourist inflows. Italian borders are currently open only to visitors from other parts of Europe. The country is set to welcome tourists this summer. Tourism contributes 13% to Italy’s annual GDP. In 2018, visitors from Europe and elsewhere added EUR 232 billion to Italy's economy. In 2019, more than 63 million tourists visited Italy. During the lockdown Italy had to shut down its historic sites, beaches, and museums. On June 5, the national tourism agency of Italy (ENIT) reported that travel sites in Rome, Venice, and Milan had received over 300 million page hits via web searches. Evidently, millions of tourists want to visit Italy this summer.
With the reopening of businesses migrants are slowly getting their jobs back. They would now be able to resume sending remittances to their families back home. Social distancing measures mean that fewer migrants would visit brick and mortar offices for remittance services. In Italy as elsewhere, there has been a major paradigm shift toward online and app-based remittance transfers. An increasing number of migrants in Italy are now using the Ria Money Transfer App to ensure the ease and speed of remittance transfers.
Elsewhere on the continent
Other European countries have also started easing restrictions. In Germany hairdressers have reopened shops after weeks. They are now so busy that customers must make appointments for their services. Portugal allowed small stores to reopen. Belgians can resume using public transport while wearing compulsory facemasks. In Greece, small flower shops, salons and bookstores have reopened. Many countries in Europe have opened their borders to each other. However most international borders in the EU remain closed to Italy. Several countries are subjecting their citizens returning from Italy to mandatory health checks.
Italy’s lockdown, although long and painful, was necessary. Equally necessary are the precautionary measures that the government has imposed now. Italy's health officials warned that being complacent about controlling the spread of infection could lead to a pandemic worse than the one we are recovering from.