Italians scramble to get home before Christmas lockdown

Rome, Dec 19  (efe-epa).- Thousands of Italians travelled to their family homes on Saturday ahead of a national lockdown that is due to come into effect over the holiday period.

Critics of the lockdown, including members of the domestic tourism sector, say it was announced at too short notice.

Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte late Friday set out a raft of measures to contain the spread of Covid-19, including a nationwide lockdown between 24 December and 6 January, during which time Italians will be ordered to stay at home and only permitted to leave for essential reasons, such as for shopping or to go to the doctor.

Inter-regional travel will also be banned and non-essential businesses will have to close.

However, given the nature of the festive period, the government will allow visits of up to two people, who can be accompanied by children under 14, an age group that does not fall under the restrictions of mixing households.

In a bid to avoid mass travel across the country, the government said inter-regional travel would be prohibited from Monday.

The decision means that citizens working or studying away from home will use this last weekend of relative freedom to travel back to their families.

This exodus was particularly noticeable in the country’s industrial north as residents of cities like Milan, Italy’s economic heart, travelled south to the likes of Rome, Naples, Bari and Calabria.

The governor of Lombardy, home of Milan, Attilio Fontana, accused the government of triggering “last-minute agglomerations” by curtailing free movement on the lead up to Christmas.

High-speed train tickets are all but sold out, given that carriage capacity has been cut in half due to Covid-19 measures. The few available tickets connecting Milan with Rome are selling for around 200 euros ($245).

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