Anger at Italy's plan for 60,000 coronavirus enforcement volunteers

One minister said he was 'absolutely against' the plan

Italy to appoint volunteer army to maintain social distancing rules

Italy to appoint volunteer army to maintain social distancing rules
Powered by automated translation

Plans to recruit 60,000 volunteers to help people to follow social distancing orders have become a flashpoint within Italy’s governing coalition.

Prime Minster Giuseppe Conte was forced to emphasise that civic assistants "will not be in charge of public service and their activity will have nothing to do with the activities traditionally assigned to the police force”.

There is great concern among Italian politicians and scientists that without social distancing measures, the country, one of the worst-hit, could suffer another spike in Covid-19 deaths as it takes steps to reopen.

There is also concern that the civic assistants are not the answer to the challenges that come with social distancing and wearing face masks.

The Five Star Movement, the smaller party in Italy's ruling coalition, and government departments expressed anger after the plan was made public.

Industry Minister Stefano Buffagni, from Five Star, wrote on Facebook that his group had not been consulted and that he was "absolutely against" the plan.

The interior ministry said it was not consulted on the plan for civic assistants.

Italy allowed bars and restaurants to open up last week, the most recent phase in reopening the country's economy.

In Naples, Rome, and other cities at the weekend, people crowded beaches, bridges and squares.

“The appeal to common sense hasn’t worked,” said Francesco Lupoli, the mayor of Pulsano in southeastern Apulia region.

On Monday, Milan was among the cities imposing new restrictions, banning the sale of takeaway alcohol after 7pm, and a mayor in Puglia closed a beach after what he called “the invasion of last weekend”.

Announcing the plan for up to 60,000 volunteer civic assistants, Minister for Regional Affairs Francesco Boccia said they would enforce anti-coronavirus orders.

“It is to the volunteers that we want to entrust our communities in this new and complex phase: the one in which we try to live with the virus and we learn to defend ourselves, even by returning to a life less compressed by the prohibitions.

“We can only get out of this emergency by being united and collaborating, with a sense of responsibility.”

On Monday, Mr Boccia said: “It is understandable and human, after two months, to want to leave one's house, but we must not forget that we are still facing the Covid-19 threat.”