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Italy’s ‘toe’ sparks rift with Rome by reopening bars and pizzerias

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The southern Italian region of Calabria has given the go-ahead for pizzerias, bars and restaurants with open-air tables to reopen, sparking a rift today with the central government.

Calabria president Jole Santelli said that open-air markets, including street vending and bakeries would also be allowed to resume business in the country’s tourist-friendly “toe”.

Ms Santelli, a centre-Right Forza Italia party politician, said she was making the changes to show trust in residents after official figures revealed only one registered coronavirus death there. “Starting tomorrow, the reopening of bars, bakeries, restaurants and pizzerias — where tables can be out in the open — will be consented,” Ms Santelli said in a statement last night.

“Calabrians have shown a civic sense and respect for the rules in recent weeks. It is right that, today, the region puts their trust in them. They will be able to demonstrate common sense in managing the new open spaces that the region has decided to allow.”

But Ms Santelli’s attempt to ease the lockdown ahead of a timetable set out by the national government produced a stern warning from Rome. Regional affairs minister Francesco Boccia said “the regions must show the same unity as that requested from citizens”. He threatened to send an order to Ms Santelli to halt the relaxation.

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Under a national blueprint for easing the lockdown, unveiled by Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, bars and restaurants are meant to remain closed until June, except for takeaway services.

In Spain, where the death toll of more than 24,000 is not far behind Italy’s, the government today announced the economy had suffered a 5.2 per cent contraction in the first quarter. The bleak figure follows a recent warning by Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez that his country is facing a recession of “extraordinary scale”. The number of fatalities recorded overnight fell to 268, the lowest tally in nearly six weeks.

In Germany, the number of recorded infections rose today by 1,627 — the highest increase in four days — as Chancellor Angela Merkel prepared to consult state premiers on whether to lift more of the lockdown restrictions following the early relaxation which has allowed small shops to reopen and some other activities. There has been speculation that a possible rise in infections since the curbs were eased could lead to some being reimposed.

Meanwhile, in Sweden the city of Lund revealed plans to spread chicken manure in its central park to deter crowds gathering for a festival. Large numbers usually go to the southern city to celebrate Walpurgis Night, which is marked across Scandinavia tonight. Sweden has resisted pressure to go into lockdown, despite reporting more virus deaths than its neighbours.

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