Restaurant owners and others angry at having their businesses shut for weeks due to pandemic lockdown measures have clashed with police during a protest outside Parliament in Rome.
Many in the crowd of a few hundred protesters lowered their protective masks to shout “Work!” and “Freedom!” Some hurled smoke flares or other objects.
Dining and drinking at restaurants, bars and cafes are currently banned through at least April. Only takeaway or delivery services are permitted.
Officers charged the protesters after they tried to breach a police cordon. Members of a far-right political group joined the business owners in the protest, according to the Italian news agency ANSA.
Italy’s current and previous governments have allocated millions of euros in aid to businesses particularly hard-hit by pandemic restrictions.
The business owners insist they need to re-open permanently. Restaurants and cafes in regions with a lower incidence of cases and less critically impacted hospital ICUs – earning so-called “yellow-zone” status – have been allowed at times to have sit-down dining and drinking before evening hours.
But a current surge in infections, driven mainly by virus variants, has seen daily new case loads in the tens of thousands and hundreds of COVID-19 deaths a day now for months. That prompted the government to temporarily eliminate “yellow zone” designation from before the Easter holidays through the rest of April.