On Monday, May 4, Italy began ‘Phase Two’ of the coronavirus lockdown, with restrictions eased and four million Italians back at work, while schools and some business activities including gyms and hairdressers remain closed. Bars and restaurants have been allowed to reopen only for carry-out.
How did the first day go?
Overall, there were no major problems. Public transport didn’t appear to be overflowing with people as expected, while there was a definite increase in car traffic.
In Milan for example, vehicular traffic was about 30-35% greater than last week, but still about 60% lower than a pre- lockdown Monday, meaning that those who can continue working remotely are doing so. Police carried out a dozen interventions at the request of the local bus company for those instances where there were more people than allowed on buses and trams.
Rome, sadly known for the inefficiencies of its public transport, seems to have passed its first day of Phase Two smoothly; it was reported that people were mostly disciplined, wearing their face masks and keeping their distance. Overall, there were no particular problems on subway lines, trams and buses, and traffic on the streets was contained, but some Romans interviewed by local media complained that there were long lines to take the metro and that people were not keeping their distance.
A taxi driver interviewed outside the Termini train station in Rome said that he expected to maybe do two rides during the entire day rather than the only one he had been doing for the past few weeks, saying drivers now stand there waiting 5-6 hours before someone asks for a ride; normally, there are huge lines of people and not enough taxis.
In Venice, more than 100 people, small entrepreneurs and artisans, gathered on the Rialto bridge to protest closure of their business activities and ask that restrictive measures for trade be further eased.
In Naples, there was criticism for a video shot inside a local station showing dozens of people getting off a small two-wagon train, unconcerned about social distancing. The maximum capacity expected to guarantee social distancing is 100 people on that train, but along the way, people kept getting on, to the point that, by the time it reached the last stop, it was reported that there were almost 200 people.
Italy’s Phase 2 means a partial easing of restrictions on travel and openings of certain activities. Although it may seem that there is not much difference compared to last week, in reality the new measures allow thousands of people to move within regions: those returning to work, for example in the manufacturing and construction sectors, but also those working for companies that have reopened ensuring compliance with health safety standards; those moving to visit family members or partners or other people with whom they have a "stable emotional bond”; those who go out to exercise, walk, bike or run in city parks.
The first two weeks of this Phase Two are therefore very important to verify the adequacy of public transport, the efficiency of the security measures adopted in the workplace and the most frequented places, the ability of people to return to experience some everyday situations respecting the rules. And also, pivotal, to monitor that the curve of contagion keeps flattening.