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Social unrest spreads in Italy as coronavirus lockdown nears fourth week

Coronavirus | There are reports of altercations as people steal food and struggle to get money as the Covid-19 situation shows no sign of improving in Italy.

Social unrest spreads in Italy as coronavirus lockdown nears fourth week
Diego PulettoGetty Images

There are widespread reports of unrest in Italy as patience with the Coronavirus lockdown runs out, with people having run out of food and money. The Covid-19 outbreak in the country shows little signs of having turned the corner, with the total death toll soaring past 10,000 on Saturday, as confirmed cases reached 92,472, a 6,000 increase on yesterday's figure. The country has been on lockdown since 9 March, but the trend in cases and deaths indicate an extension is highly likely.

Italy struggling as coronavirus lockdown continues

Videos are appearing on social media of people struggling to cope with the effects of the lockdown. In Palermo, Sicily, police have been forced to head to supermarkets after reports of people stealing food to feed themselves, and groups have appeared in recent days looking to organise raids on supermarkets.

A video has been widely shared around Italy showing a father beside his young daughter, who is eating a solitary slice of bread, telling the Italian primer minister Giuseppe Conte "We've already been inside for 15 to 20 days and we are at our limit. Just like my daughter, other children in a few days won't be able to eat this slice of bread. Rest assured you will regret this, because we are going to have a revolution".

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Lockdown in Italy "absolutely necessary"

Experts and officials say the Covid-19 situation would be far worse without the national lockdown having been put in place and that it absolutely necessary it continues to avoid an even greater medical emergency. "Without these measures, we would be seeing far worse numbers and our health service would be in a far more dramatic state. We would have been in an unsustainable situation," said Civil Protection head, Angelo Borelli.

The mayor of Palermo, Leoluca Orlando, in comments to Sky News, said the levels of unhappiness in the population were growing, and officials are recording distressing reports of protest and anger. The fear is that these will exploited by criminals who want to "destabilise the system". ""The more time passes, the more resources are exhausted. The few savings people have are running out. This tells us socio-economic issues will erupt," said the mayor.

An example of this can be seen in video footage from Apulia of a man shouting at police to help, after his local bank closed and he was unable to withdraw his mother's pension, the family's only income. In the video he can be seen telling the officers that they have no money, and they have no food at home.

Italy coronavirus lockdown extension expected

The lockdown is expected to be extended, with Education Minister Lucia Azzolina having already said the closure of schools and universities, which began on March 5, would have to be extended past April 3.

Italy's minister for southern regions Giuseppe Provenzano stated concerns about potential social tensions and civil unrest in poorer areas if, as expected, the epidemic moves south.

"I am afraid that the worries that are affecting large sections of the population over health, income and the future, with the continuation of the crisis, will turn into anger and hatred," he told La Repubblica newspaper on Saturday.

Meanwhile Michele Emiliano, governor of the southern Puglia region, downplayed played fears of civil unrest in the south but said the lockdown may have to be extended until mid-May.

Check out our in-depth guide to the coronavirus pandemic.