Conte Says Italy to Extend State of Emergency to October

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Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte set out his case for extending his emergency powers to October, arguing the coronavirus is still present in the country despite the spread now being limited.

“An extension is inevitable, in some respects it is obligatory,” Conte told the Rome Senate. “Contagion has fallen, but the numbers show that the virus continues to circulate in the country, giving rise to outbreaks at local level which have been identified and contained. The international situation remains a concern.”

The premier said the plan had been discussed at a cabinet meeting earlier Tuesday and would be decided on after the parliamentary debate, but did not give a specific date in October. The government plans to prolong the state of emergency through Oct. 15, newswire Ansa reported.

The state of emergency, declared on Jan. 31 and initially scheduled to last for six months, allows the premier to draw up decrees on virus lockdowns and safety rules among other measures without the need for parliamentary approval.

Italy registered 181 new virus cases on Tuesday, bringing to 246,488 the total reported since the end of February. That compares to a one-day peak of 6,557 new infections in March. Eleven deaths linked to the virus were reported, with the total number of fatalities at 35,123.

Opposition leader Matteo Salvini of the anti-migrant League, who refused to wear a protective mask at a Senate conference on the virus Monday, said extending the state of emergency took a devastating toll on the economy.

“It seems to me the emergency is over luckily,” Salvini told reporters in Rome on Tuesday before the debate. “Keeping Italians terrorized, distant from each other and locked up is an attack on our democracy and on our economy.”

Conte said the aim of the extension is to guarantee many efforts against the virus can continue, listing examples from hiring volunteers for the civil protection agency, recruiting health staff, and the work of a medical and scientific panel which advises the government.

The premier will seek approval from both houses of parliament on Wednesday for 25 billion euros in extra spending as his government struggles to restart an economy ravaged by the pandemic. Italy’s gross domestic product is expected to shrink 9.5% this year and increase 4.8% next year, Fabrizio Balassone, head of the Bank of Italy’s economic structure unit, told lawmakers earlier Tuesday.

The ruling coalition’s razor-thin majority in the Senate may be bolstered on the request to widen the deficit by the center-right Forza Italia party of ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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