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World News

Italian regions angry over government's COVID-19 zones

ROME (Reuters) - Local Italian leaders reacted with dismay and anger on Thursday after the government singled out some regions for tougher restrictions than others in the renewed battle against a burgeoning coronavirus.

FILE PHOTO: A man walks in front of closed stores, in a partially closed shopping centre, after the Lombardy region imposed a stop to non-essential economic activities and people's movements between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m, as the region is hit by surging coronavirus disease (COVID-19) infections in Milan, Italy, October 24, 2020. REUTERS/Flavio Lo Scalzo/File Photo

Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte announced on Wednesday that four areas, including Calabria in Italy’s southern toe and the country’s most populous region Lombardy, had been designated as red zones which will face a partial shutdown.

Two other regions were branded as orange zones, which means they will be hit by less stringent curbs, while the remaining 14 regions were placed in a yellow band with only light limits.

The government said it based its banding decision on 21 criteria. However, the system created confusion, as did the restrictions, which are non-negotiable and will confine many people to their homes in the red zones over the next two weeks.

“Our requests have not even been taken into consideration. This is a slap in the face to Lombardy,” said Lombardy governor Attilio Fontana, who had urged Conte to wait a few more days to see whether measures introduced last month were working.

Lombardy, which includes Italy’s financial capital Milan, has been the epicentre of the contagion from the start and is still registering the largest number of new daily cases, which regularly exceed 7,000.

Calabria has been far less hit, and reported just 262 new infections on Wednesday. The government is concerned its hospitals would be unable to cope with a mass outbreak, but local officials pushed back on the red zone move.

“This region does not deserve to be isolated. This could be fatal (to the economy),” said acting regional governor Nino Spirlì, who pledged to appeal the decision.

COMPLAINTS AND ANGER

There was also anger in adjacent Sicily about being placed in the orange zone, which, among other things, orders the closure of all bars and restaurants.

“This seems to have been motivated more by politics than science,” said the island’s governor, Nello Musumeci, a member of the rightist bloc which is in opposition in Rome.

Musumeci questioned why two major regions, Lazio and Campania, both run by the ruling centre-left Democratic Party, had been assigned to the yellow zone.

Campania leader Vincenzo De Luca expressed unhappiness at the decision not to introduce more stringent measures across the whole country.

“The government will have to take full responsibility for the health and social consequences of this,” he said, complaining that imposing overnight curfews on all three zones was too weak.

“That is frankly aimed mostly at stray dogs,” he said. “What is serious is that nothing is being done to stop the tens of thousands of people who flock to the seafront and city centres at the weekend.”

Editing by Timothy Heritage

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