Matteo Salvini Attacks PM Conte: ‘It Is Time for Italy to Reopen’

Italy's Interior Minister and deputy Prime minister Matteo Salvini attends a press conference in Helsinki, Finland on July 18, 2019 after an Informal Meeting of EU Ministers for Home Affairs. (Photo by Emmi Korhonen / Lehtikuva / AFP) / Finland OUT (Photo credit should read EMMI KORHONEN/AFP/Getty Images)
EMMI KORHONEN/AFP/Getty Images

ROME — The leader of Italy’s principal opposition party has slammed Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte for failing to deliver on promises to liberate Italians from the coronavirus lockdown and get the country working again.

“After 47 days of imprisonment, we can say on behalf of millions of Italians, ‘basta.’ Let us out, let us earn, let us work, let us make a life again,” said Matteo Salvini following the prime minister’s disappointing announcement of continuing restrictions for Italy’s “phase 2” of the coronavirus lockdown.

“We expected more and better, honestly, as in other European countries, dates, certainties, security, guarantees, and instead we only get vague hints,” Mr. Salvini said, before announcing that his party would be proposing a comprehensive plan on May 1 to relaunch Italy.

“On Friday, May 1, we the Lega will present a plan for national, economic, civil, cultural and moral reconstruction,” Salvini said.

“If we go on like this, many companies will not reopen, many will file for bankruptcy, thousands of companies will close and jobs will be lost. Why not reopen certain key supply chains safely tomorrow?” he asked.

“They must allow us to return to life and we will do it. Even if we have to leave our homes to recover our freedom we will do it,” he said, suggesting that many Italian are ready to take to the streets to peacefully protest the lockdown “with safety precautions and social distancing.”

“Hunger and lack of freedom along with the virus? We can’t afford it,” he said. “First of all, Italy and the Italians.”

The former interior minister also attacked Mr. Conte’s reversal of position on the need to carry special forms or “autocertificazioni” in order to leave home. On Sunday, Conte said that all Italians must continue to carry the hated papers to justify leaving their residences.

“We understood that self-certifications are still required this week and again for the next, that’s enough, we can’t take it any longer, they force us to go around again carrying these self-certifications 24 hours a day,” Salvini said.

“Friends, the only ‘self-certification’ you need is that of common sense, otherwise the economy, work, and the life of Italians risk never recovering,” he said.

Mr. Salvini also took issue with Conte’s silence regarding the restarting of Italy’s tourism industry, a mainstay of the Italian economy particularly in the upcoming summer season.

“Not a word on tourism, which makes up 15 percent of our gross domestic product,” he said. “Five million Italians live off tourism, many of whom are seasonal workers, and yet not a word from the president of the government on the tourism sector.”

“Bars and restaurants will not be able to reopen until June,” he continued, “but why not immediately reopen those that are able to guarantee distances, safety, cleanliness, protection of life and health?”

“How many cooks, waitstaff, seasonal workers have no certainty, no paycheck, no unemployment benefits?” Salvini asked. “But their rent doesn’t wait, their mortgage payments don’t wait, and we get nothing but empty words.”

Mr. Salvini also joined the Italian bishops in censuring the prime minister for arbitrarily banning public worship.

“The bishops came out demanding freedom of worship, and I completely agree,” Salvini said.

“In Italy there are 8 thousand churches, that can guarantee distances, safety, masks,” he said. “They could reopen the doors for boys and girls, helping parents who have to work with closed schools.”

“Why not reopen summer camps, scout camps, parishes and oratories, which are looking forward to helping Italians in difficulty?” he asked.

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