The much-anticipated phase two has been underway in Italy for almost a month and both the government and the scientific community are cautiously optimistic. So far there have been no reports of increased contagion after the lockdown was lifted on May 18th and, while life in the Country has not gone “back to normal” by any stretch of the imagination, most businesses are gearing up to face the uphill struggle against the threat of recession, and most people are keen to go back to what felt familiar before the pandemic.
Saturday night fever
The beginning of phase two was characterised by heated discussions on Italy’s nightlife. In most cities, tentative crowds formed as soon as bars and pubs were allowed to reopen, with hundreds of young people queueing for an aperitivo by the Navigli in Milan or central Naples. Local governors warned that large gatherings were still not allowed and threatened to shut everything back down. Eventually, time limitations were imposed on alcohol selling licenses, and stricter rules were devised for the positioning of outdoor tables.
The curve is staying flat
General practitioners and hospitals have been in constant communication between each other and with the government throughout this second phase of pandemic management, and they have not reported on any increase in the spread of Covid-19. The general consensus is that most positive cases in the Country have now been identified and treated and that any undetected cases are prevented from spreading due to the safety measures that are in place everywhere, from social distancing to the compulsory sanitization of all public spaces, facilities, and premises. Meanwhile, the number of patients needing intensive care or even hospitalization has dropped significantly, relieving the pressure on the national health service.
Social distancing on the beach
One of the more pressing questions, on the lead up to phase 2, concerned the management of safety measures and social distancing on beaches and in outdoor facilities. Tourism is, after all, one of Italy’s main industries, and most entrepreneurs in this field absolutely need to capitalize on the three months of summer, on which they depend for their year-long livelihood. Strict guidelines have been implemented, resulting in fewer accesses to beaches and parks, and skyrocketing prices for customers, but so far beach lovers do not appear to have been deterred. It will take until the end of the season to appraise the effects on phase 2 on both the spread of the virus and the part of the economy that revolves around tourism, hospitality, and travel.
Lombardy vs Italy: phase two is not the same everywhere
One factor that has greatly contributed to Italy being perceived as the worldwide epicentre of the pandemic for several months is the anomaly represented by Lombardy. This region has had the highest concentration of cases in the world and the numbers there stayed high well beyond the time it took for the rest of the Country to wrest control over the pandemic. As the situation stabilises in Lombardy, Italy is dropping lower on the list of Countries most affected by Covid-19. It is now generally agreed that all Italian regions are safe to visit, provided that social distancing and basic hygiene rules are followed.