Inter Milan’s Serie A Title Hopes All But Gone After Bologna Defeat

bologna-inter-milan
Bologna’s Gambian forward Musa Barrow (under) celebrates with teammates after scoring the second goal of his team during the Italian Serie A football match between Inter Milan and Bologna played behind closed doors on July 5, 2020 at the Giuseppe-Meazza San Siro stadium in Milan. MIGUEL MEDINA / AFP

 

Inter Milan blew a goal and a man advantage to lose 2-1 at home to Bologna on Sunday and saw their Serie A title challenge all but ended in dramatic fashion.

Antonio Conte’s men needed a win to move back to within eight points of leaders Juventus, and one of second-placed Lazio, but despite leading through Romelu Lukaku’s 20th league goal of the campaign and playing against 10 men, contrived to collapse to defeat.

Juventus sit seven points clear at the top after beating Torino in the Turin derby on Saturday, when second-placed Lazio were thumped by AC Milan.

Inter are now 11 points off the pace with only eight matches of the season remaining.

The third-placed hosts forged ahead midway through the first half as Lautaro Martinez headed Ashley Young’s left-wing cross against the post, but Lukaku was on hand to tap in.

It was the Belgian’s 20th league goal since joining Inter from Manchester United last year and his 26th in all competitions.

Mid-table Bologna always carried a threat, though, and Riccardo Orsolini twice went close to equalising before half-time.

But Inter were gifted a golden opportunity to take total control 12 minutes into the second half when Bologna midfielder Roberto Soriano was sent off for dissent.

A crucial three points appeared almost certain when Martinez stepped up to take a 61st-minute penalty, but the Argentinian striker saw his effort saved by visiting goalkeeper Lukasz Skorupski.

That was the cue for Inter, chasing a first league title since winning the treble under Jose Mourinho in 2010, to collapse in the closing stages.

Musa Juwara, on as a substitute, fired home a 74th-minute leveller through the weak attempted save by Inter stopper Samir Handanovic, before the home side also saw their numerical advantage disappear shortly afterwards as Alessandro Bastoni was dismissed for a second yellow card.

The comeback was completed with 10 minutes left, as Gambian striker Musa Barrow finished off a sweeping Bologna counter-attack with a fine left-footed shot past Handanovic.

Inter piled on the pressure during six minutes of injury time, but failed to rescue even a point, with Alexis Sanchez denied by Skorupski.

Bologna moved up to ninth, five points off the Europa League places.

 

Nigerian Father Searching For ‘Miracle’ Daughter After Sea Rescue

 

His wife was three months pregnant when Peter Enyinnaya was ambushed in Libya.

When he eventually returned from captivity, she had disappeared, likely believing him to be dead. Today, at the gates of Europe, the 38-year-old Nigerian is nearing his goal: to find his family.

As he sits on an upturned crate onboard the Ocean Viking rescue ship, which pulled him and 46 other migrants to safety from their dinghy on Tuesday, Enyinnaya said he hopes beyond hope that Italy will provide a port of safety.

He says he knows his family is there. He had written the address down on his mobile phone, but the people smuggler who packed him onto the small blue dinghy in Libya stole it.

The mechanic, who wears a gold chain and a green T-shirt distributed by SOS Mediterranee, the charity which runs the Ocean Viking, says that won’t stop him.

Disaster struck in 2017 when Enyinnaya, who had left home to try his luck in Libya, was on his way by taxi to work in Sabha, over 600 kilometres (370 miles) south of Tripoli.

‘Tortured for months’

“I fell into a trap,” he told an AFP journalist onboard the Ocean Viking.

Men “dressed like the military, but they were not the army, stopped my taxi, put me in their trunk, and brought me in a building, I don’t know where, where they locked me up with four other black Africans,” he said.

There, he says with his head bowed, he was “tortured for months… they beat me, beat me with an iron bar, electric shocks too”.

The ordeal, he said, lasted nine months, during which two of his fellow prisoners died.

AFP was not able to independently verify Enyinnaya’s story, but human rights groups have long spoken about rampant abuse of migrants in Libya.

He said the price of his freedom had been set at 27,000 dinars by his captors — more than 17,000 euros.

And since he could only give them 5,000 dinars, he had to work for free as their mechanic until one day he was thrown “on the side of a road, half-dead”.

After a stay in the hospital, he realised that his wife had gone, leaving no trace behind.

“She probably thought I was dead. Lot of people thought I was dead,” he says, shrugging his shoulders.

Finding her and finally meeting their child has been his obsession ever since, Enyinnaya said, opening his wallet and pulling out a photograph of his wife, “the love of my life”.

‘End of the journey’

He managed to track her down via Facebook: she was in Italy, along with their two-year-old daughter.

But the Mediterranean sea still separated them. So Enyinnaya went back to work and made enough money to buy himself a seat on a dinghy, hoping to reach Italy.

When he saw the Ocean Viking rescuers after three days and nights at sea, he thought it was “a miracle”.

On Friday the ship was seeking a port of safety to disembark the 180 people it has pulled to safety over the last week.

“Find them (his wife and daughter) would be my greatest desire. I could have died for that. My journey will only end when I will hold my daughter” Enyinnaya said.

He was not around to name her when she was born but admits his wife could not have chosen better, for she is called Miracle.

Italy Bans Use Of Overhead Locker On Flights

 In this file photo taken on June 19, 2017 an Airbus A380 performs a flight display at Le Bourget airport on the opening day of the International Paris Air Show. ERIC PIERMONT / AFP
In this file photo taken on June 19, 2017, an Airbus A380 performs a flight display at Le Bourget airport on the opening day of the International Paris Air Show. ERIC PIERMONT / AFP

 

Passengers travelling to or from Italy by air will no longer be able to use the overhead baggage lockers in planes after the Italian Civil Aviation Authority (Enac) decided they were a health risk. 

The new rule results from a government decree, prompted by fears of further spreading the novel coronavirus, that specifies travellers may only board with a bag small enough to slide under the seat in front.

The intention is to prevent close contact between passengers and limit movement in aircraft cabins.

Enac said that passengers would not need to pay a supplement to put their suitcases in the hold.

An Italian consumer association, Codacons, welcomed the decision on Friday, saying it would “avoid the chaos” which sometimes occurs in the cabins “when passengers place their luggage in the overhead compartments”.

“In this area, the Italians are among the most unruly travellers in Europe, causing delays and queues which today would fuel the risk of contagion,” the association said.

Italy was the first country in Europe to be hit by the coronavirus which has so far killed over 34,600 people in the country.

 

AFP

Building Collapse Kills Mother, Two Children In Italy

A photo grabbed from a video taken and handout on June 24, 2020 by the Italian Corps of Firefighters (Vigili del Fuoco) shows an Urban Search And Rescue team working at the site of a building collapse in Albizzate, near Varese, northern Italy, that killed a woman and her two children who were walking along the building's wall. (Photo by Handout / Vigili del Fuoco / AFP) /
A photo grabbed from a video taken and handout on June 24, 2020 by the Italian Corps of Firefighters (Vigili del Fuoco) shows an Urban Search And Rescue team working at the site of a building collapse in Albizzate, near Varese, northern Italy, that killed a woman and her two children who were walking along the building’s wall. (Photo by Handout / Vigili del Fuoco / AFP) /

 

 

A woman and two of her children were crushed to death when part of a building collapsed in northern Italy as a third child, a nine-year-old boy, looked on, Italian news agencies reported Thursday.

The accident occurred Wednesday in the town of Albizzate, on the outskirts of Milan, when a cornice nearly 70 metres (230 feet) long suddenly fell from the one-storey building, crashing onto the street.

The woman, of Moroccan origin, and her five-year-old son were killed on the spot, while her 15-month-old daughter died later in hospital, the ANSA news agency said.

The nine-year-old was across the street when the mass of stone and brick crushed the others. A 42-year-old woman was also injured.

It took search-and-rescue workers several hours to dig out the victims’ bodies from the rubble, the reports said.

The old industrial building houses several businesses. A “twin” building which includes a supermarket has been shut.

-AFP

Italy’s Foreign Minister Pays Quick Trip To Libya

Fayez al-Sarraj (R), Prime Minister of Libya’s UN-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA), meets with Italy’s Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio (L) in the Libyan capital Tripoli on June 24, 2020, while clad in masks due to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. (Photo by – / AFP)

 

Italy’s foreign minister made a lightening trip to Libya on Wednesday amid a flaring conflict between a UN-recognised government in the west and eastern-based forces loyal to strongman Khalifa Haftar.

Luigi Di Maio was due to meet the head of Tripoli’s Government of National Accord Fayez al-Sarraj, as well as the interior minister and his foreign affairs counterpart, Italian agencies Agi and Ansa said.

Rome considers Libya “a priority… our most important issue, which concerns our national security,” according to an unnamed ministry source, cited by the Messaggero daily.

“We can’t afford a partition of the country. That is why we went first to Ankara, a (diplomatic) channel we’ve always kept open,” the source said, referring to Di Maio’s trip to Turkey on June 19.

He last visited Libya in January.

During his Wednesday visit Di Maio is set to examine an amended “memorandum” of cooperation between the two countries over migration, the Repubblica said.

Libya has been mired in chaos since the 2011 uprising that toppled and later killed longt-time dictator Moamer Kadhafi.

The Arab League on Tuesday called for the withdrawal of foreign forces in Libya and urged talks on ending the conflict in the north African country.

READ ALSO: COVID-19 Crisis Sinks Global Economy In 2020, Collapsing GDP 4.9% – IMF

The Turkish-backed GNA has recently made major military gains against Haftar’s forces, who have sought to regain control over the west in an abortive attempt to seize Tripoli.

Egypt, which supports Haftar, has warned that advances by Turkey-backed forces on the strategic Libyan city of Sirte could prompt an Egyptian military intervention.

The GNA denounced Cairo’s statements as a “declaration of war”.

Besides Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Russia back Haftar’s forces.

AFP

Mancini To Balotelli: Wake Up Before Your Career Sinks

Vieira Asks Balotelli To Decide On Future At Nice
A file photo of Mario Balotelli

 

Italy coach Roberto Mancini on Saturday urged Mario Balotelli to “wake up” before he throws his career away.

Balotelli’s ill-fated stint at hometown club Brescia appears to be coming to an end, with reports his contract will be terminated after repeated absences from training.

“I’ve told him a thousand times that he’s wasting a huge talent,” Mancini told Italian television.

“I have loved Mario very much since he was a boy and he has done extraordinary things. He has a crazy physique, speed, technique, and at 30 he is in the middle of his career.

“I hope that one day he will wake up and change.”

READ ALSO: Watford Snatch Late Point As Liverpool Prepare For Title Push

Mancini recalled Balotelli to the Italy squad when he took over as coach in May 2018, having successfully worked with the forward at Manchester City and Inter Milan.

Balotelli, who has 36 caps for Azzurri but only one since 2014, joined Brescia last summer in the hope of winning a place in Mancini’s Euro 2020 squad, but has scored just five times in 19 matches for the club.

He made his debut with local team Lumezzane in Serie C as a 16-year-old, before moving to Serie A giants Inter in 2007, where he won three league titles and the Champions League.

He later had two spells at AC Milan and also played for Liverpool, Nice and Marseille.

AFP

COVID-19 Was Already Present In Italy In December, New Study Shows

A file image displaying a computer model of the coronavirus.

 

The coronavirus was present in two large Italian cities in December, more than two months before the first case was detected, a national health institute study of waste-water has found.

That suggests the virus appeared in Italy around the same time it was first reported in China.

Researchers discovered genetic traces of Sars-CoV-2 — as the virus is officially known — in samples of waste-water collected in Milan and Turin at the end of last year, and Bologna in January, the ISS institute said in a statement seen by AFP on Friday.

Italy’s first known native case was discovered mid-February.

The results “help to understand the start of the circulation of the virus in Italy,” the ISS said.

They also “confirm the by-now consolidated international evidence” as to the strategic function of sewer samples as an early detection tool, it added.

The results feed into an effort by scientists around the world to trace the virus’s family tree.

Chinese scientists have said the virus likely emerged in a market that sold wildlife in the central city of Wuhan in December, but Beijing officials have recently suggested that it may have originated elsewhere.

And some studies and reports have suggested that the virus might have been present in China before December.

Before the pandemic hit

Italy was the first European country to be hit by the virus and the first in the world to impose a nationwide lockdown. The first known case, other than a couple of visiting Chinese tourists, was a patient in the town of Codogno in the Lombardy region.

On February 21 the government ordered Codogno shuttered, followed by nine other towns across Lombardy and Veneto.

By early March it had extended the shutdown across the country and has now recorded more than 34,500 deaths.

ISS water quality expert Giuseppina La Rosa and her team examined 40 waste water samples from October 2019 to February 2020.

The results, confirmed in two different laboratories by two different methods, showed the presence of SARS-CoV-2 in samples taken in Milan and Turin on December 18, 2019 and in Bologna on January 29, 2020.

Samples from October and November 2019 were negative, showing the virus had yet to arrive, La Rosa said.

The data was in line with results obtained from retrospective analysis of samples of patients hospitalised in France, which found positive SARS-CoV-2 cases dating back to the end of December, the institute said.

It also pointed to a recent Spanish study that found genetic traces in waste water samples collected in mid-January in Barcelona, some 40 days before the first indigenous case was discovered.

The presence of the virus in the Italian waste water did not “automatically imply that the main transmission chains that led to the development of the epidemic in our country originated from these very first cases,” La Rosa said.

Early detection system

Since the beginning of the epidemic, researchers across the world have been tracing the spread of the coronavirus through wastewater and sewage, finding genetic traces from Brisbane to Paris and Amsterdam.

Given the large number of coronavirus cases that have few or no symptoms, wastewater testing is seen as a potential way to signal the presence of the virus even before the first cases are clinically confirmed in areas untouched by the epidemic — or where it has ebbed.

The ISS said it had urged the health ministry to coordinate the collection of samples regularly in sewers and at the entrance to purification plants “as a tool to detect and monitor the circulation of the virus in different territories at an early stage”.

It is launching a pilot study on priority sites identified in tourist resorts in July, and expects to setup a nationwide surveillance network of waste water by the autumn.

Italy’s Tourism Industry Expects Unprecedented Slump

People shop at the outdoor market and walk about in central Rome on May 9, 2020, during the country’s partial lockdown aimed at curbing the spread of the COVID-19 infection, caused by the novel coronavirus. Tiziana FABI / AFP.

 

Italy’s tourism sector is expecting a steep fall in visits this summer and its worst revenue figures in over 20 years, an industry survey found on Thursday.

The country, which welcomed over 60 million foreign tourists in 2018, according to the World Tourism Organization, is now expecting 56 million fewer overnight stays, found the survey from Florence’s Centre for Tourism Studies (CTS).

That translates into a 3.2 billion euro ($3.6 billion) drop in turnover for the industry, one of the engines of Italy’s economy, representing the worst results since 1998, the survey found.

Nearly half of the drop in revenue will come from the hotel sector, found the study, which surveyed more than 2,100 entrepreneurs in the sector.

“A decrease was expected, but if it continues like this it will be the worst drop in the history of our tourism industry,” said Vittorio Messina, president of Assoturismo, Italy’s tourism federation, which commissioned the survey.

READ ALSO: COVID-19: One Positive Case In Latest Round Of Premier League Testing

After a two-month lockdown, Italy allowed European tourists to return on June 3, but incoming tourists from outside the Schengen zone are still prohibited.

“We have to make a plan for the revival of the sector which represents 13 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) and our calling card abroad,” Messina added.

AFP

Italy Reopens To Tourists From Europe

In this file photo taken on November 04, 2019 tourists walk across St Mark's Square (Piazza San Marco) by St. Mark's Campanile (Rear L), St. Mark's Basilica (Basilica San Marco, Rear R) and the Doge's Palace (Palazzo Ducale, R) in Venice. MIGUEL MEDINA / AFP
In this file photo taken on November 04, 2019 tourists walk across St Mark’s Square (Piazza San Marco) by St. Mark’s Campanile (Rear L), St. Mark’s Basilica (Basilica San Marco, Rear R) and the Doge’s Palace (Palazzo Ducale, R) in Venice. MIGUEL MEDINA / AFP.

 

Italy reopened to travellers from Europe on Wednesday, three months after the country went into coronavirus lockdown, with all hopes pinned on reviving the key tourism industry as the summer season begins.

Gondolas were ready to punt along Venice’s canals, lovers will be able to act out “Romeo and Juliet” on Verona’s famed balcony, and gladiator fans can pose for selfies at Rome’s Colosseum.

But there were fears many foreign tourists would be put off coming to a country still shaking off a vicious pandemic.

“Come to Calabria. There’s only one risk: that you’ll get fat,” the southern region’s governor Jole Santelli said on Sunday as the race began to lure big spenders — or any spenders — back to Italy’s sandy shores.

Italy was the first European country to be hit hard by the coronavirus and has officially reported more than 33,000 deaths.

It imposed an economically crippling lockdown in early March and has since seen its contagion numbers drop off dramatically.

With the country facing its deepest recession since World War II, it needs foreigners to return, and quickly.

But it is still reporting hundreds of new cases a day, particularly in the northern Lombardy region, and experts warn the government may be being hasty in permitting travel between regions and abroad.

READ ALSO: UK PM Johnson Condemns George Floyd killing, Calls For ‘Lawful’ Protests

“We hoped to see some movement from today, but have no foreign tourists booked in for this week or next,” said Alessandra Conti, receptionist at the Albergo del Senato hotel which overlooks the Pantheon in Rome.

“We’ve got a few reservations from mid-June… (but) are still getting lots of cancellations for this summer”.

– ‘Like a leper’ –

International flights were only expected to resume in three main cities: Milan, Rome and Naples.

And there were concerns that those who usually come in by car, train or ferry from neighbouring countries would go elsewhere on their holidays.

Switzerland has warned its citizens that if they go to Italy they will be subject to “health measures” on their return. The country will open its borders with Germany, France and Austria on June 15, but not with Italy.

Austria is lifting restrictions in mid-June with Germany, Switzerland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary — but again, not Italy, described last week by Vienna’s health minister as “still a hotspot”.

Other countries, such as Belgium and Britain, are still advising against, or forbidding, all non-essential travel abroad.

In response to perceived anti-Italian sentiment, Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio has warned countries not to treat Italy “like a leper”.

He said Saturday he would be travelling to Germany, Slovenia and Greece to persuade them Italy is safe for foreign tourists.

Arrivals in Italy from Europe will not be required to self-isolate unless they have recently travelled from another continent.

At the border between the town of Ventimiglia in Italy and Menton in France, more people were trying to enter France from Italy than the other way round early Wednesday, but controls on the French side were very strict.

“The situation is a bit complex. There is a total reopening of the Italian borders, but the situation is not the same on the French side,” a police source told AFP, as drivers stuck in long queues sounded their horns.

– Too expensive –

Italy’s lockdown has had a particularly devastating effect on the tourism sector, which amounts to some 13 per cent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

Historic sites were shut, restaurants closed, and hotels were used to care for coronavirus sick.

Restaurants, cafes and beach establishments have slowly reopened over the past two weeks — although the government has said it reserves the right to impose localised lockdowns if it sees contagion numbers rise.

But only 40 of Rome’s 1,200 hotels have reopened, the Corriere della Sera newspaper said Monday, and just a dozen in Milan. It costs too much to open them if they will just stand empty.

“My hoteliers all want to reopen, but as long as the borders remain closed, it’s not possible,” Marco Michielli, deputy head of hoteliers’ association Federalberghi, said Saturday.

Italy’s national tourism agency (ENIT) said some 40 per cent of Italians traditionally travel abroad for their holidays, but could be forced this year to vacation at home, helping local businesses.

That may be little comfort to those running the country’s costly historic sites, because most of the tens of thousands of visitors that usually flock daily to the Tower of Pisa, Pantheon or Pompeii come from abroad.

AFP

Italians Celebrate Lockdown End With Ice Cream

Maddalena serves an ice cream to a customer at the Brivido ice cream parlour in the Testaccio district of Rome on May 26, 2020, as the country eases its lockdown aimed at curbing the spread of the COVID-19 infection, caused by the novel coronavirus. Alberto PIZZOLI / AFP.

 

Strawberry and chocolate or fig and hazelnut? Italians have been celebrating the end of the coronavirus lockdown with one of their favourite treats: artisanal gelatos.

“After a long period spent at home, many have chosen to cool down with an ice cream even during the week, at lunchtime,” agriculture group Coldiretti said in a statement.

The country’s 39,000 gelato shops, which employ 150,000 people and post annual sales of 2.8 billion euros ($3.1 billion), were being “saved” by people’s desperation to spend time outdoors after almost three months inside.

The sector had “decidedly picked up again” following the economically-crippling nationwide shutdown, it said.

Nearly 240 tonnes of ice cream were consumed last weekend in Rome and along the Lazio coastline alone, but cones were being licked up and down the country in cities and seaside resorts alike, it said.

READ ALSO: COVID-19 Heightens Heatwave Health Risks, UN Warns

They were helping fight not only lockdown fever but also stickier than average temperatures, with this year being classified so far as the hottest since records began in 1880, Coldiretti said.

A whopping 94 percent of Italians regularly eat ice cream, it said, with seven in 10 preferring it piled on a cone rather than scooped into a little tub.

Many like it with freshly-whipped cream on top.

AFP

Italy Proposes 60,000 Volunteers For Post-virus Vigilance

In this file photo taken on November 04, 2019 tourists walk across St Mark's Square (Piazza San Marco) by St. Mark's Campanile (Rear L), St. Mark's Basilica (Basilica San Marco, Rear R) and the Doge's Palace (Palazzo Ducale, R) in Venice. MIGUEL MEDINA / AFP
MIGUEL MEDINA / AFP

 

Italian officials have proposed creating a 60,000-strong corps of volunteer “civic assistants” who would remind people of the need to observe measures against coronavirus infection as the country emerges from lockdown.

The force, to be drawn from among pensioners and the unemployed, is the brainchild of Regional Affairs Minister Francesco Boccia and Antonio Decaro, mayor of the southern city of Bari.

The civil protection unit, which manages the various volunteers helping to fight against the COVID-19 epidemic that has caused nearly 33,000 deaths in Italy, would be charged with the recruitment.

They would answer questions and remind the public of social distancing rules, or the need to wear masks, in crowded areas such as beaches, parks and city streets. The volunteers would not be able to fine people.

Decaro said Monday that some of these potential volunteers had already “helped deliver groceries or medicines to those who could not leave their homes during the crisis.”

“In this new phase, they will help control access to parks or markets, counting the number of people entering or leaving, or explaining the rules of access to beaches when they reopen,” Decaro, who is also president of the Association of Italian Municipalities, said in a statement.

READ ALSO: COVID-19: Unease In Greece As Restaurants, Cafes Reopen

Some authorities said they welcomed the idea of more help in the aftermath of the coronavirus crisis as they struggle with crowd control at bars, cafes and beaches after two months of lockdown.

“Civic assistants can be useful,” said Paolo Truzu, mayor Sardinia’s capital Cagliari, adding that he envisioned them helping on his city’s beaches.

Others, however, scoffed at the idea.

“How can we think that 60,000 people found who knows where, trained who knows where will be going around Italy telling Italians what to do on the basis of rules that nobody understands?” asked former government minister Carlo Calenda, leader of the small centrist Azione party, on Twitter.

“Is this normal and legitimate in a democratic country?”

Giordano Masini, member of the pro-European Piu Europa (More Europe) party, said what Italy needed was more capable professionals.

“We need doctors, nurses, social workers, teachers, educated people,” Masini said.

AFP

‘No Nightlife’ Says PM As Italy Starts To Party

This photo taken and handout on April 23, 2020 by the Palazzo Chigi Press Office in Rome shows Italy’s Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte taking part from his office at Palazzo Chigi in Rome to a videoconference of EU leaders on the virus economic impact, during the country’s lockdown. Handout / Palazzo Chigi press office / AFP.

 

The sun is shining and it feels like summer. For many Italians, that means one thing — Aperol spritzes at a terrace cafe with friends.

But just days after most coronavirus lockdown restrictions were lifted, authorities are saying not so fast.

From Palermo to Turin, images of partygoers gathering in piazzas and outside bars have caused panic among regional leaders and mayors.

They worry that crowds of mostly young people celebrating their freedom from quarantine may bring about another rise in infections of a disease that has already killed more than 32,000.

Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, who took a tough line at the start of the crisis by putting his country of 60 million people under lockdown in early March, sounded like a nagging parent on Thursday as he spoke to parliament.

READ ALSO: UN Urges EU To Take In 160 Migrants Stranded At Sea

“It’s not the time for parties, nightlife or gatherings,” Conte said. “During this phase, more than ever it’s fundamental to respect security distances and wear masks, where necessary.”

– ‘Moment of freedom’ –

In the northern city of Padua, photos of dozens of young people packed together without masks outside a bar raised the ire of regional president Luca Zaia.

“In 10 days, I’ll see the infection rates. If they rise, we’ll close bars, restaurants, beaches and we’ll lock ourselves back up again,” he warned. “No one wants to ban spritzes but I’m asking that we avoid gatherings and we wear masks until June 2.”

Zaia said his Veneto region planned to make a short film showing “what it means to go for a spritz without a mask”.

Similar scenes with hundreds of young people have been seen in Palermo in Sicily, in Turin in the northwest and Bari in the south, among other cities.

In Rome, a bar owner in the popular nightlife zone of Trastevere, Alessandro Pulcinelli, told AFP that young people out at night have been lingering until about 1:00 am.

“They think they’ve done everything they needed to and now it’s the moment of freedom,” said Pulcinelli. “They’ve got masks, but they don’t wear them. It’s hard to drink and talk with them.”

On the eve of the reopening of restaurants and bars, the mayor of Bergamo, an epicentre of the virus in the northern region of Lombardy, said he had already seen “so many people who are not careful enough” during a walk through the city.

“Are hundreds of deaths in our city not enough? Do we want to find ourselves in trouble once again in a month?” Mayor Giorgio Gori wrote Sunday on his Facebook page.

In Lombardy, masks in public are mandatory.

– ‘Defying death’ –

In order to encourage more outside seating – because the virus can spread more readily in enclosed spaces – Italy has eliminated a tax paid by cafes and restaurants for tables on the street.

“In exchange, we ask them for a little additional effort to avoid gatherings and possible contagions,” Bergamo’s Gori said.

Crowded street parties represent “a real withdrawal from reality”, psychoanalyst Caterina Tabasso told the Repubblica newspaper.

“Young people often defy death and these crowded aperitifs can be an example of a sense of omnipotence.”

Italy’s police, who until now have been charged with keeping people inside their homes, are now expected to perform more frequent patrols of popular nightlife areas.

Fines can range from 400 euros to 3,000 euros ($438 to $3,288).

Padua Police Commissioner Isabella Fusiello told the Stampa newspaper on Thursday that it was not just for the police to keep things under control.

“Those who run public establishments also have responsibilities,” Fusiello said, saying that bar owners risked having their licences revoked.

Rome bar owner Pulcinelli said his biggest fear was fines, but that he didn’t have any way to make people respect social distancing.

“Tonight, all the bars in Trastevere will be open,” Pulcinelli said, adding it would be at its peak.

“I think the police presence will be impressive.”

Antonio Decaro, the mayor of Bari, suggested that cafe and bar owners deliver a mask with every cocktail.

“It’s unreal to think that law enforcement can control every citizen,” Decaro said.

AFP