Italian Government Buckles to Protests and Speeds Up Lifting of Strict Lockdown

( Italy, the first major European economy that was severely impacted by the Chinese coronavirus in spring, is accelerating the lifting of its strict lockdown measures. The Italian government announced this week that restaurants, coffee bars, shops, and other businesses can start to reopen as of May 18, earlier than the original June 1 deadline.

Over the last week, Italy has seen a dramatic increase in protests from its people. All over the country, spontaneous protests that the police cannot contain have occurred against the ongoing lockdown measures and the “autocertificazione” papers that people are required to have when police randomly stop them in the street.

On Monday, a meeting between national government representatives and local politicians resulted in a decision to scale back the restrictions, implement new safety guidelines, and help people get back to work.

In Italy, wearing a mask has also become a symbol of compliance with the government, with many refusing to wear it as a signal to the government that they won’t do what they’re told. The country did not mandate the wearing of masks during the initial weeks and months of lockdown, though this was at a time when the World Health Organization told the world that masks don’t work. We’ve since learned that they do.

The Italian government has said that despite lifting some restrictions, it will still intervene if the data shows that infections are increasing again. Autonomies Minister Francesco Boccia said “the phase of responsibility for the regions begins,” meaning that the restrictions are being lifted but only if the regions are responsible and the numbers don’t increase.

According to Italy’s ANSA news agency, the methods and the full timing of the lifting of the restrictions have yet to be decided.

Italy didn’t have the advantage of being able to see how other countries dealt with the virus outbreak as they were the first major European country to be hit. Now, they still don’t have the advantage of seeing what happens when lockdowns are lifted. As the United States begins to cautiously lift lockdowns, the federal government will no doubt be keeping a watchful eye on the infection rates in Italy in coming weeks.