What has changed?
Up to now, European Governments have followed an approach to tackling Coronavirus based on three main elements: closing down the main public interactions (retail, hospitality, sports) except those necessary for food and healthcare; encouraging/requiring people to work remotely where they can, and to stay away from work if not essential; and social distancing/ staying at home. Within these parameters, everyone else – in practice a significant proportion of the economy – could continue their activities.
On the evening of 21 March, the Italian Prime Minister announced a new approach, which switches from this approach of defining certain restrictions and allowing anything not restricted to continue, to ceasing all production and economic activities unless exempted. The new Italian regime will initially run for two working weeks, until 3 April. Two weeks is also the recommended household isolation period in case of infection: one week for the person infected and one in case they have infected others in the household. The new approach is set out in a decree published on 22 March, which the Government worked on with the Scientific Committee and the Trades Unions.
In taking this decision, Italy is moving to the approach used in China and now in the US – defining which parts of the economy can continue to function, rather than defining what must cease.