Italy recruits volunteers to control crowds as lockdown eases

ROME (Reuters) – Italy’s government will ask some 60,000 citizens to work as volunteers to enforce social distancing rules as it gradually removes coronavirus restrictions, after scenes of street gatherings over the weekend sparked an outcry.

Italy is gradually relaxing a nationwide lockdown imposed in early March, permitting travel between regions and meetings between friends, and allowing bars to serve drinks as long as a two-metre security distance is respected.

However, hundreds of new cases of the virus and deaths are being recorded every day and local administrators are worried contagions may surge again if citizens do not respect the rules.

TV images over the first post-lockdown weekend showed traffic jams in Naples and crowds in Milan, while the Veneto region published a video with images of patients in intensive care to convince people to comply with security measures.

“Those who fuel night life are betraying the sacrifices of millions of Italians,” Regional Affairs Minister Francesco Boccia told daily newspaper “La Stampa” on Monday.

Boccia said the government would recruit volunteers, called civic assistants, to help with checking crowds and for community services, such as taking groceries to people who need them.

He added they would be recruited from volunteers and from beneficiaries of the government’s basic income support scheme.

Early in May, when Italy began to soften lockdown measures, large groups of people gathered in parks and in the canal area of Milan, one of the cities worst-hit by the coronavirus, provoking the ire of Mayor Giuseppe Sala.

Sala said on Facebook on Monday he was frustrated by some citizens’ failure to follow the rules, adding it was “unthinkable” to repeat what happened last weekend.

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