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Italy rocked by protests over new covid-19 restrictions

New covid-19 rules spark protests across Italy amid concerns over rising social tensions.

Protests broke out in cities across Italy last night, in some cases turning violent, as the nation's new restrictions to battle the second wave of covid-19 came into force.

Hundreds of protestors took to the streets in Milan, the capital of the northern Lombardy region hardest-hit by the coronavirus pandemic, leading to clashes with police who responded with tear gas, reports Italian news agency ANSA.

Protests in the northern city of Turin, which began peacefully with taxi drivers highlighting their loss of income, descended into violence, with protesters smashing shops, including a Gucci boutique, and looting in the central Via Roma.

The new restrictions, which oblige bars and restaurants to close at 18.00 as well as the total closure of cinemas and gyms, also led to protests in Cremona where restaurateurs banged pots and pans in front of the local prefecture.

Demonstrations took place in other northern cities including Genoa, Treviso and Trieste.

Last night's protests were not confined to the north however: in the Tuscan city of Viareggio protestors blocked traffic and fired smoke bombs and flares at police.

In Rome a peaceful demonstration was held in Piazza Trilussa, in the Trastevere district, where bar owners poured alcohol into the gutter in protest over lack of financial support from the government.

Protests continued last night in Naples, which was the scene of violent clashes in recent days, with demonstrations and clashes also in the Sicilian cities of Catania, Palermo and Siracusa.

Social tensions

The mounting number of protests is seen as a "wake-up call" to Italy's interior ministry which fears that social tensions could boil over across the country.

The ministry believes that some of the demonstrations are being exploited by local organised crime groups, right-wing extremists and hooligans who are stoking violence and taking advantage of citizens' anger and frustration over the restrictions.

While Italians were compliant with the country's first lockdown in the spring, the latest round of restrictions has provoked an immediate backlash, particularly among small businesses owners who say they face bankruptcy.

In an attempt to calm the escalating situation, the government says it will present a package of measures today, 27 October, to support businesses hit by the new restrictions.

Last night's protests came after Italy's health ministry registered just over 17,000 new cases of covid-19, down from more than 21,000 the day before, but with about 40,000 fewer swab tests taken over the previous 24 hours.


Cover photo: Tgcom24 Mediaset

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