Italy tightens workplace rules in coronavirus crisis

A worker sanitises Ponte della Paglia bridge on St. Mark's square as a measure to fight against the coronavirus contagion in Venice
A worker sanitises Ponte della Paglia bridge on St. Mark's square as a measure to fight against the coronavirus contagion in Venice, Italy, March 12, 2020. REUTERS/Manuel Silvestri

Italy agreed on a series of measures on Saturday to improve health controls in factories, offices and other workplaces that have been allowed to stay open during the country’s coronavirus lockdown.

The measures agreed after all-night talks with companies and trade union leaders include tighter controls on workplace practices and cleaning protocols, as well as steps to encourage more home-working, Economy Ministry undersecretary Pier Paolo Baretta said.

In addition, help will be offered to workers who have lost income during the lockdown announced across the country last week to try to contain the crisis.

“For the good of the country, for the protection of workers. Italy will not come to a stop,” Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said on Twitter.

Italy is at the epicentre of a coronavirus outbreak that is spreading rapidly across Europe, threatening both public health and the economy.

As of Friday, authorities had recorded at least 17,660 cases and 1,266 deaths, the most for any country outside China, where the virus first emerged.

Deputy Health Minister Pierpaolo Sileri announced on Saturday that he had tested positive for the virus.

Underlining the international dimension of the crisis, a group of Chinese specialists arrived in Italy with medical equipment and advice.

Italy’s economy, already on the brink of recession, is expected to be heavily impacted by the crisis with sectors from tourism to fashion or manufacturing seeing orders collapse since the virus first appeared in the country in a small town close to Milan last month.

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