Italy Begins Rollback Of Stay-At-Home Orders And Return To Normality

After nearly two months of stay-at-home orders, Italy has finally begun the process of ending the longest coronavirus lockdown in Europe. Last Monday, the government cautiously eased a few restrictions. Many other restrictions are currently still in place as the country begins to open up from one of the worst outbreaks of COVID-19 in the world. More than 30,000 Italians died of coronavirus since the emergence of the outbreak on 21 February.

Response to the rollback is mixed. Some believe that the government is being too timid, and that there need to be greater changes made. However, others are afraid that rolling back restrictions will lead to a second wave of infections, possibly worse than the initial outbreak.

The new, loosened rules allow for 4.5 million Italians to work again, construction work to resume, and families to see each other. Cafes were also allowed to reopen for takeaway ordering. There are still a number of precautions in place. Friends are not allowed to meet up, shops are still closed until 18 May, and schools, cinemas, and theatres are closed indefinitely.

Many individuals were simply happy to be able to see one another again. Maria Antoinietta Galluzzo told Reuters that “I woke up at 5:30 a.m. I was so excited.” She was on a walk in the park with her 3-year-old grandson in Villa Borghese park. They hadn’t seen each other in three weeks. Riccardo Monti, the CEO of an e-commerce company, was happiest about his “first proper coffee for eight weeks… The bar is the focal point of our social life so to see them closed was a trauma.”

This lockdown has caused the worst recession since WWII, but the government can still only lift restrictions gradually, as coronavirus seems to be going strong as over a thousand cases are still reported daily. 14 out of 60 people randomly stopped by police entering Naples by car on Monday tested positive according to Corriere della Sera daily. None had symptoms. Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte told the same newspaper: “If we want to avoid painful backward steps now more than ever, we need cooperation, a sense of responsibility, respect for the rules by all.” Even so, it seems that “Common sense is prevailing in this initial phase,” according to Massimo Improta, a police officer in Rome, who noted that there have not been any large gatherings or people refusing to wear face masks.

Italy’s struggles due to the coronavirus have been great. The small country has faced one of the greatest death tolls in the world, and some are afraid that it would not survive a second wave of the illness. That being said, Italy is also facing its greatest recession since the Second World War, not to mention the harm that quarantine and stay-at-home orders can do to ones’ mental health. While the ideal solution would be to maintain quarantine until a vaccine or cure is discovered and usable, that unfortunately seems to be nearly impossible, and this slow reopening seems to be the second-best choice. The strong limitations on what used to comprise daily life activities while still allowing families to see each other and daily work to continue as normal might be a strong enough push for much of the country to maintain a positive outlook during a hard situation, without placing the nation in danger of a second wave of the disease.

Even despite the changes to daily life, Italy is the country with the second highest death toll from COVID-19, second only to the United States. On Monday, there were 195 new deaths, 21 more than the day before, and double the amount from 9 March, the day Italy’s lockdown began.

If Italy’s rollback turns out to be a success story, and there is no second wave of coronavirus infections, then one of two things will happen. Either the world will follow Italy’s lead and carefully open back up, returning to the new normal without much danger, or other countries will assume that they can do the same faster, and cause a greater, harsher second wave, resulting in more deaths. Before opening states and countries up post-stay-at-home orders, leaders should consider the minimum amount they can do. The most important thing to consider isn’t the economy, but the people who run it. Protect them before you consider anyone else.