Italy Targets Milan, Turin in Clampdown to Slow Virus Surge

Italy targeted the financial capital of Milan and key industrial hubs in the north with a set of tough new restrictions, risking more damage to the country’s fragile economy in a bid to rein in the spread of the coronavirus.

Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said Wednesday that the northern region of Lombardy around Milan, as well as Piedmont and its capital Turin, fall into the country’s highest-risk zones. That will trigger measures restricting people to the cities and towns where they live starting Friday.

“A single measure across Italy would have had a double-negative impact,” Conte said at a press conference in Rome Wednesday evening, as he outlined a new three-tier system dividing the country by risk level into red, orange and yellow zones.

Italy Targets Milan, Turin in Clampdown to Slow Virus Surge

Lombardy, home to a sixth of Italy’s population, is a business and industrial powerhouse which accounts for about 22% of gross domestic product. Piedmont is the center of the country’s auto industry. Combined, Lombardy and Piedmont account for nearly a third of the economy.

Governor Attilio Fontana said the late-day announcement that his region had been given a red-zone designation was “a slap in the face to Lombardy,” claiming the decision had been taken “without valid or credible motivation.” Fontana, a lawmaker from the opposition League party, charged Rome with ignoring specific requests for new measures from the region.

Unlike last spring’s national lockdown, industrial operations will remain open even in the worst-hit zones in an attempt to shield the economy. The new decree runs from Friday to Dec. 3, with the toughest restrictions imposed for a period of at least 15 days. Conte’s latest decree also imposes a curfew between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. across the country.

Italy Targets Milan, Turin in Clampdown to Slow Virus Surge

League leader Matteo Salvini called the new measures an example of the government’s “incapacity and arrogance,” saying they’re based on faulty data, Corriere della Sera reported. The industrial north is the League’s stronghold, and the center-right opposition has argued that Conte’s measures do more harm than good, risking the livelihoods of workers and businesses in the most productive area of the country.

To mitigate the impact of the latest restrictions, the government is readying new relief funding for businesses of at least 1.5 billion euros ($1.8 billion). “If we need additional resources we should be ready to discuss raising extra debt,” Conte said.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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