Italy to support virus-battered sectors with 5bn-euro aid package


The Italian government will start distributing payments from an emergency aid package of more than 5 billion euros (5.8 billion dollars) as soon as November, Finance Minister Roberto Gualtieri announced on Wednesday.

The measure includes financial help and tax deferrals for companies and employees in sectors like tourism and culture, which are particularly affected by new coronavirus restrictions.

Bars and restaurants which have been forced to close earlier than usual will also receive support, it said.
On Monday, the Italian government imposed the strictest restrictions since the end of the lockdown in June in a bid to contain a mounting second wave of coronavirus infections.

Bars and restaurants were ordered shut at 6 pm; gyms, pools, cinemas, theatres and concert halls closed; and high schools told to hold online classes for at least 75 per cent of students.

The number of new coronavirus infections within one day in Italy has reached 24,991, the authorities in Rome announced on Wednesday.

It was only on Sunday that the country exceeded 20,000 new infections. Some 205 fatalities were linked to the virus in the past 24 hours.

Since the pandemic began in February, there have been almost 590,000 confirmed infections and 37,905 deaths.
Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte urged citizens to trust the governments “precise strategy,” speaking in front of legislators in Rome.

He said the new restrictions were needed to avoid a second full-blown lockdown and assured citizens and businesses of rapid help.

The government also appealed to citizens to refrain from participating in the violent protests against the restrictions that have broke out in several cities in recent days.

“The state doesn’t tolerate violent behaviour,” Gualtieri had told broadcaster Rai 1 according to news agency ANSA. He accused “groups of violent neo-Facists” of exploiting the situation.

Interior Minister Luciana Lamorgese told Il Messaggero daily on Wednesday that the country was in a “complicated” situation. While saying that demonstrations were legitimate, she accused right- and left-wing extremists, anarchists and youth with criminal records of inciting violence.

Meanwhile, entrepreneurs and employees from bars, restaurants and pubs took to the streets in several cities on Wednesday including Milan, Trieste, Florence and Naples.

Association representatives from the service and gastronomy sector had previously called for protests “on 24 squares in the entire country.”

According to industry association Fipe-Confcommercio, the coronavirus crisis and the restrictions on opening hours would trigger insolvencies and job losses.

Government critics warned that restaurants and bars had invested immensely into protective measures for customers and weren’t to blame for the surge in new infections.

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