The Italian government announced on Wednesday that citizens will not be able to travel around the country for Christmas, and angered regional leaders who said new efforts to stem the spread of the coronavirus were going too far.
Between December 21 and January 6, no Italian citizen will be able to travel between the 20 regions of the country, except for professional reasons, for medical reasons or in emergencies, according to government orders.
During Christmas Day and New Year’s Day, residents will not even be allowed to leave their respective cities. Those who live in small towns or villages within walking distance of the nearest town are still not allowed to leave their own city limits.
The decree adds that travel to “second homes located in a region or autonomous province other than their own” will be prohibited.
In response, regional leaders issued a joint statement in which they stated that they had not been consulted on the new order and that “the lack of discussion has made it impossible to reconcile the curbs with the needs of families,” Reuters reported.
“These families must remain divided even at Christmas. This is further proof that the government does not know Italy,” said Matteo Salvini, leader of the right-wing opposition party League.
Attilio Fontana, the governor of the Northern Lombardy region, which has reported the most coronavirus cases and COVID-19 deaths in the country, also attacked the order.
“The reading of an unexpected decree prohibiting movements between cities in the same region on December 25, December 26 and January 1 is insane,” he said.
The government has also introduced a nationwide curfew at 10:00 p.m., which means that the Christmas Eve mass, which traditionally takes place at midnight, must be celebrated earlier in the evening.
“It will be a different kind of Christmas. Victims are still necessary to avoid exposing ourselves to a third wave in January with a high death toll,” Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said on Italian television last week, as the Italian edition of The Local said.
The new decree is just one part of a series of efforts that the government was supposed to announce on Thursday. Additional measures could include the introduction of a 10-day quarantine for those traveling to Italy from abroad and strict recommendations to limit the number of guests during the Christmas celebrations.
“A free and democratic state cannot enter homes and say how many people are allowed at the table,” Conte said on Tuesday, according to The Local. “There will generally be restrictions on social occasions.”
The increase in new coronavirus infections and hospitalizations has slowed down across the country in recent weeks, but Italy still has the highest daily death rates of any European country.
Italy was the first epicenter of the pandemic in the West. To date, it has reported over 1.6 million coronavirus infections and 58,038 deaths, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
“With the next emergency ordinance, we must continue with serious and rigorous measures,” said the country’s Minister of Health, Roberto Speranza, in an address to Parliament on Wednesday.
“We need a few more weeks of sacrifices,” he said. “The [contagion]wave is still high and our navigation remains difficult. Let’s not have any illusions,” he said.