COVID-19, Lockdown, the end of Phase 2, Reflections, Italy, 16 May 2020

As the COVID-19 restrictions are eased slightly on Monday, Italy faces the same problem as elsewhere – the promise of a second wave while gradually opening up the economy. Restaurants and bars will open for internal service after a couple of weeks of serving take-away food and drinks. That internal service is to maintain the social distancing of the past three months.

However, in Italy – compared to other countries – the government only imposed a one metre separation, which scientists tell us is not enough, certainly indoors.

The new decree provides for masks and gloves to be worn indoors in commercial businesses and enclosed public spaces. We are used to that now after weeks of that requirement. It has been already imposed by shops, pharmacies and supermarkets that have regulated entry to maintain social distancing.

Under the Phase 2 regulations, take-away food and drinks are not to be consumed in the vicinity of the bar or restaurant. The intention is clear but the Italian habits around smoking persevere.

Smoking is not allowed in shops, bars and restaurants, but how often do you see people smoking at the door in Italy! I am used to smoking regulations that prevent smoking anywhere near the doors of premises. Being allergic to cigarette smoke, those businesses simply don’t get my patronage.

So, the natural enough inclination is to consume drinks, especially, right by the entrance to bars.

I have been impressed by the general adherence to the lockdown provisions, but on the couple of occasions I have been out in the past week, I have seen more adults breaching the intent of the measures to contain the coronavirus.

Illustration of the problem
The crowd outside a small bar in the historical centre of Perugia, Friday 15 May 2020.
Photo: James McDonald

This was the scene – at any other time unremarkable – last evening outside a bar in via Oberdan in the historical centre of Perugia. I’ve seen these gatherings before in the last week or so. It does not bode well for Monday when restrictions are slightly eased. People were crowded around the bar (which is not allowed), weren’t maintaining social distance, many without masks, and they covered the whole entrance from the Piazza to the street. At least the proprietor seemed to be trying to control the crowd.

Being in a vulnerable age group, that incident, as I struggled through the crowd with my groceries, convinces me that I should remain in self-imposed semi-isolation following the lifting of restrictions.

James McDonald
16 May 2020