Friday, April 10, 2020

Italy's economic engine weakened by coronavirus

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In the Vittorio Emanuele II gallery, in Milan on February 24. According to Federalberghi (the federation of Italian hotel professionals), the cancellation rate for stays in the city is 30%. ANDREAS SOLARO / AFP

Of course, the closure of La Fenice in Venice, La Scala Theater or the Milan Cathedral because of the sudden outbreak in Italy of the coronavirus epidemic will have had a strong impact. Yet another piece of news is much more worrying for the whole of the Italian economy. Saturday February 22, the board of directors of Mido, the most important international fair dedicated to the world of optics and ophthalmology, decided to postpone its edition of the fiftieth anniversary sine die, scheduled from February 29 to March 2 on the space of the Milan Fair, in Rho.

More than 1,200 exhibitors, 50,000 visitors expected: the event is one of the highlights of the Milanese year, as well as one of the many manifestations of the current dynamism of the Lombard capital, which has become in recent years a central place in the world of fashion and design. Faced with the worsening health crisis and as the authorities began to take the first restrictive measures, the organizers have no choice. Moreover, since the weekend, cancellations of events of all kinds have multiplied, while the Milan fashion week ended in confusion.

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In any case, the visitors themselves no longer come: on Monday, according to Federalberghi (the federation of Italian hotel professionals), the cancellation rate for stays in Milan was 30%, while many multinationals decided to postpone the professional travel of their employees in the Peninsula, while waiting to see more clearly. For the time being, the blast effect is considerable and seems to last. The Bologna Children's Book Fair, an important moment in Italian editorial life, which was originally scheduled from March 30 to April 2, has already been postponed from May 4 to 7.

Fear of further restrictions

"We must not block Milan", The city’s mayor Giuseppe Sala said again on Sunday, fearing the devastating economic effects of a blackout. But nothing worked: in the hours that followed, the governor of the Lombardy region, Attilio Fontana, decreed the stopping of all the rallies, at the same time as the closing of the schools and the main public places. Even the Bishopric of Milan had no choice but to suspend masses in the churches of the diocese.

The accumulation of this news as well as the fear of a worsening of the restrictions caused from Saturday a real rush on the supermarkets, the inhabitants hastening to store essential products in the event of prolonged quarantine. "We saw people leaving Esselunga's house (a supermarket chain very present in the north of the country) with 10 kilos of flour. What do they believe? Are they going to start making bread at home? " amused a resident of Milan, Monday evening, annoyed by the mood of psychosis which seemed to have seized his city, accentuated by the photographs of empty rays disseminated on social networks.

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