Italy set to prolong lockdown, invest more billions

Giuseppe Conte
Giuseppe Conte

PRIME Minister Giuseppe Conte, on Thursday, said Italy’s nationwide coronavirus lockdown would be extended beyond the initial April 3 end date.

Conte told the Corriere Della Sera newspaper “we have avoided the collapse of the system; the restrictive measures are working.

“But it’s obvious that when we reach a peak and contagion begins to diminish hopefully in a few days, things won’t get back to normal right away.’’

Italy is combating Europe’s worst outbreak of the Covid-19 disease caused by the new coronavirus, with more than 35,000 infections and a death toll of 2,978 as of Wednesday.

The news agency ANSA meanwhile published a picture of a column of army trucks moving through the northern city of Bergamo at night.

They were carrying 60 coffins of victims to crematoria in other regions because the city’s cemetery was full, it reported.

“At the moment I can’t reasonably say anything more, but it’s clear that the measures we have taken will have to be prolonged once they run out,’’ Conte said.

Conte said Italy was working on an investment plan on a scale ever seen before to combat the economic impact of the outbreak.

The government already on Monday approved a 25-billion-euro (27.1-billion-dollar) aid package for businesses, workers and the health system.

Conte said the new package could amount to 50, 70 or 100 billion euros.

Meanwhile, the spread, or interest rate differential between Italian and German benchmark 10-year government bonds, fell back sharply from more than 280 basis points to about 200.

The development came after Conte’s comments and Wednesday decision by the European Central Bank (ECB) to launch an emergency bond-buying programme worth 750 billion Euros.

The spread is seen as a proxy for market confidence in a country’s creditworthiness.

The higher it is, the greater the investors’ concerns and the more expensive, relatively, for the Italian government to borrow money.

The spread had risen to a six-month high, and rose further in the days following an initial ECB package that was widely seen as lacklustre.

Announcing the first package, ECB chief Christine Lagarde had said the bank was “not here to close spreads,’’ drawing a furious reaction in Italy.

Conte, however, applauded the bank, writing on Twitter that the latest measures were strong, loud, and measure up to the gravity of the health emergency we are facing and the resulting economic shock. (dpa/NAN)

– Mar. 19, 2020 @ 15:17 GMT |

(Visited 11 times, 1 visits today)
Click Banner for Details