Italian regions block bookshops reopening after gov’t relaxes restrictions

(Update 1: adds latest figures)

Rome, Apr 14 (efe-epa).- Some Italian regions have ordered their bookshops to stay closed over fears of a coronavirus resurgence after the government allowed them to reopen on Tuesday.

Italy has been one of the worst-affected countries by the deadly pandemic. The Civil Protection Agency said 602 people had died in the last 24 hours, bringing the overall death toll to 21,067. Another 2,972 new infections were also registered, bringing the overall tally since the outbreak began in late February to 162,488, some 37,130 have recovered.

The government ordered a national lockdown which has been extended until 3 May.

While announcing the extension on Friday, authorities also categorised bookstores as an essential service meaning they can reopen from Tuesday.

A number of regions have raised concerns that this could be dangerous and fear the shops may become sources of contagion, as customers constantly browse and touch books.

Previously supermarkets and pharmacies were the only businesses that were allowed to stay open during the pandemic.

Booksellers can decide whether to open their doors or not, as long as they respect sanitary regulations such as the use of gloves, hand sanitiser and masks and maintaining a minimum distance between customers.

Some regions, including Lombardy and Piedmont in the north, the central area of Lazio and Campania in the south, have blocked the move.

In Lazio the opening date has been postponed until 20 April and in Veneto in the northeast, booksellers will be able to work two days a week, according to Italian newspaper La Repubblica.

The mandatory distance between people in Veneto is at least two meters, while in Tuscany the distance is 1.8 meters and cleaning of ventilation systems will also be mandatory.

Book Morning, an independent bookshop in Genoa, said it will not be opening and explained its reasons in a statement on social media.

“How could we, at a time when movement restrictions are still very strict to protect the health of all, invite you to visit us as if nothing had happened?” owners Valentina Beronio and Samantha Giribone said in the post.

“What are the sanitation, prevention and safety tools that we must implement?”

The dilemma of whether or not to open has also extended to Italy’s publishing companies.

Feltrinelli and Librai Editori Distributori were among those who decided to keep their doors closed, while others such as Libraccio will open where allowed.

The Italian Booksellers Association has said it is in favour of the reopening and has appealed against the regions that have blocked it. EFE


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