Italy Threatens Harsher Punishment for Those Caught out of Doors

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ANDREAS SOLARO/AFP/Getty Images

ROME — Italy’s Interior Ministry issued a warning Tuesday, promising higher fines and harsher penalties for those found outside their homes with insufficient reason.

In a single day (Monday), police stopped 172,720 people on the streets, sanctioning 7,890 of them for being outside their homes without adequate reason. A further 229 were found guilty of making false declarations regarding their identity or their motives for being outside, a crime punishable by up to six years in jail.

The number of persons stopped by police from March 11 to 16 totals 838,200, with 35,506 of those receiving fines, which also carry with them a criminal record.

One man was fined for washing his car while waiting for his wife to finish receiving her dialysis treatment in the nearby hospital.

Moreover, on Monday officials inspected 97,551 commercial establishments, fining 217 and shutting down 22 for a failure to comply with new regulations.

The prefect of Milan, Renato Saccone, said Tuesday that permissions to leave one’s home needed to be interpreted and enforced more strictly.

“The presence in parks must be reduced. There are still too many who run, too many people who interpret in various ways their right to take a walk and take dogs for a walk. This is not good,” Saccone said. “Milan is a bulwark. The city still has a relatively low infection rate. It must be maintained in this way, otherwise the risk is that the entire regional health service may be compromised.”

Authorities have declared that anyone who displays symptoms of coronavirus must stay at home, and if this person leaves his or her residence they can be charged with willful murder, bearing a minimum sentence of 21 years in prison.

Officials issued a new self-certification form Tuesday, which has an added line where one must attest to not being subject to mandatory quarantine.

An article published Sunday in The American Conservative bearing the title “With Coronavirus, Will Authoritarian Impulses Prevail?” examines the age-old debate of how much freedom people are willing to give up for the sake of perceived security.

“Thanks to a relatively open press and social media here in the U.S., it would be difficult for the government to institute a Beijing-like clampdown on reports about the virus,” writes Kelley Beaucar Vlahos, “but as citizens we need to be sure that powers that incline toward authoritarian control in times of crisis—and we know they exist—don’t prevail as conditions get weirder and weirder, at our airports, the border, shopping centers, whatever.”

In a country like Italy where one day you are living in a free republic and the next day you find yourself in a police state, the matter warrants careful consideration.

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