Anger as Italy's new 'red zones' prepare for lockdown

Milan (AFP) –


Italy's newly-designated coronavirus "red zones" braced Thursday for a fresh lockdown as anger rose against the government, accused of penalising some regions while being too lax towards others.

At the Scala in Milan, gloom reigned after the prestigious opera house was forced to cancel its opening night next month, and non-essential shops served their last customers before a lockdown Friday set to affect over 16 million people.

Lombardy, which includes Milan, was designated "high-risk" this week, along with fellow northern regions Piedmont and Val d'Aosta, and Calabria in the south, under a new colour-coded scheme drawn up by Rome.

Southern regions Puglia and Sicily were designated orange, or medium-risk, and will face less restrictive measures, while the rest of Italy was yellow. All of Italy is facing a new night curfew from Friday.

"It's a slap in the face for Lombardy," raged the region's president Attilio Fontana, a member of the far-right opposition League party, who has accused Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte of using out of date data.

Some on the already quiet streets of Milan, Italy's financial and fashion capital, said a new lockdown would change little.

"My customers are very scared, very scared," hairdresser Francesco Puccio told AFP.

"Last week I only had two clients per day, sometimes even just one, so there's no real advantage for me in staying open. There's nobody out and about anymore, the offices are empty," he said.

In Rome, lawyer Barbara Ferretti, 53, said she was "ready to do whatever it takes to get back to normal life as soon as possible".

- 'Cripple them' -

Experts say the country is in the grip of a second wave after a sharp uptick in contagion numbers, with regions warning intensive care units were filling rapidly.

Another 445 new coronavirus deaths were recorded on Thursday, taking the total toll to more than 40,000. There were another 34,505 new cases, taking the total to almost 825,000.

But bus driver Fabrizio Duo, 42, captured the fears of many in the "red zone" that the closures "will cripple them".

Piedmont head Alberto Cirio, from the centre-right Forza Italy party, also accused Rome of taking the decision to lock down regions "based on data which was at least 10 days old".

Wealthy northern Italy was hardest-hit when the pandemic first gripped Italy in early March, leading to an economically-devastating nationwide lockdown.

"The situation hasn't changed, we need to find another solution (to lockdown)", said kiosque owner Nicola Bilotta, 56, in Milan.

And Luigi de Magistris, the mayor of Naples in Campania, agreed -- complaining that the left-wing region should be a "red" zone and insisting hospitals were near collapse and the government's maths "does not add up".