No layoffs, reduced rent: 'Italian cure' for pandemic
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Companies are barred from laying off workers and rents have been reduced under Italy's economic survival plan for life at the European epicentre of the coronavirus pandemic.
Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte hailed his 25-billion-euro ($28-billion) programme as the "Italian model" that the rest of Europe could adopt as it imposes its own painful lockdowns.
Italy's 2,978 official COVID-19 deaths account for more than half of those reported outside China.
Its nationwide containment measures are meant to see death rates that hit a global one-day record of 475 on Wednesday plateau and start to come down this month.
Other European nations are now taking on Italy's painful social distancing measures -- and Conte believes they will also adopt his remedy for families and businesses hurt by the fight against the invisible killer disease.
"When we talk about the Italian model, we are not only talking about health but also the economic response to the crisis," Conte said while unveiling his "Cura Italia" ("Italian Cure") plan at the start of the week.
Other European countries will probably never take on all 127 of the points that Conte -- a former law professor -- and his team of technocratic ministers drafted in the heat of Italy's gravest emergency since World War II.
But here are the broad outlines of what Conte thinks could be a pan-European response plan.
- Worker rights -
Companies are prohibited from laying off workers for the next two months without "justified objective reasons".
The self-employed and seasonal workers such as tour guides can expect a 600-euro ($680) payment for the month of March to help cushion the pain of lost business.
The government will also cover 100-euro bonuses for low-wage employees.
- Baby sitters -
Families are issued 600-euro vouchers to cover the expense of having to hire baby sitters to look after their children, who will be out of school at least until April 3.
The Italian government said Wednesday that its month-long shutdown of everything from kindergartens to private universities might run well into next month.
The self-employed who have to look after their kids will receive "parental leave" payments that cover half of their declared monthly incomes.
These payments can also be calculated on a daily basis.
- Rent and mortgage -
Conte has shut down all forms of business except for pharmacies and grocery stores for two weeks starting on March 12.
The government is compensating shop owners by offering them tax credits to cover 60 percent of their March rent payment.
The self-employed and freelancers with home mortgages can ask to have their payments suspended for up to 18 months if they can prove that their incomes fell by a third.
- Taxes -
A variety of taxes and social service payments are being suspended for sectors and professions deemed most affected by the crisis.
An existing list has been expanded to include everyone from truck drivers and hotel staff to cooks and clerks.
The government expects to start collecting the taxes again in May.
- Politics and prisons -
A variety of other measures affect issues ranging from prisons to politics and sport.
A planned national referendum to cut the number of parliament members has been postponed until the second half of the year.
The government is sending 20 million euros to repair the damage caused to prisons by rioters who were anxious about the new disease.
Italy's sport federations get four-month tax privileges and 130 million euros will go to support cinemas and the movie industry.
© 2020 AFP