Italy’s rate of coronavirus infections has finally slowed, but the national lockdown that helped slow the spread of the disease is now threatening to take its own toll as Italy’s poorer regions begin to push back against government regulations keeping them from working.
The “depressed south” is “turning into a powderkeg,” according to Bloomberg world news, and the Italian government is now prepared to take efforts to control the possible spread of violence.
“Police have been deployed on the streets of Sicily’s capital, Palermo, amid reports gangs are using social media to plot attacks on stores,” the outlet reported Tuesday. “A bankrupt ferry company halted service to the island, including vital supplies of food and medicines. As the state creaks under the strain of the coronavirus pandemic, officials worry the mafia may be preparing to step in.”
“Preventing unrest in the so-called Mezzogiorno, the underdeveloped southern region that’s long lagged behind the wealthy north, has become the government’s top priority,” Bloomberg added.
Italy is now on its fourth week of national lockdown, though some regions — like heavily affected Lombardy — have been under strict orders to shelter in place since late February, when the coronavirus first began to take hold. Italy has had more than 100,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus and around 11,000 deaths, but the rates have been steadily declining for nearly a week. In the last three days, Italy has seen a marked decline in infections, leading some to believe the end is finally near for the coroanvirus-ravaged country.
The government does plan, however, to keep the lockdown order in place for at least two more weeks, extending the national shelter in place policy until Easter.
Like other countries facing a coronavirus lockdown, including the United States, Italy expects to see a subsequent economic slowdown but the nation is already deeply in debt and while stimulus money is forthcoming, the Italian government will likely have to ask for financial help from other European Union nations — and it still will not be enough to help the around 4 million Italians who are employed in the nation’s “underground” economy, leaving them unable to get unemployment benefits.
“Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte is working to finalize a $33 billion stimulus package to bolster the country’s virus-stricken economy, a follow-up aid after his initial $27.5 billion bailout announced on March 10,” according to Fox News. “Over the weekend, Conte released more than $440,000 to be used by Italian mayors for food stamp programs for residents struggling to feed their families amid the lockdown.”
“Leaders within the European Union are working to finalize a financial aid package for Italy,” Fox added. “Germany, the wealthiest nation, and Italy, the most indebted nation in the bloc, reportedly have butted heads over terms of a bailout.”
There are also fears that the Mafia could gain power among disaffected Italians.
“Many people live day-to-day, doing odd jobs, like unloading trucks at markets, and they are in trouble,” one Sicilian police leader told Bloomberg. “We need to be on the alert to see whether there’s organized crime behind social unrest.”