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60,000 volunteers to work as social distancing monitors in Italy

Italy is planning to send out into the streets some 60,000 volunteers to tell people to keep respecting social distancing rules in the country’s post-lockdown phase.

The scheme, announced by Regional Affairs Minister Francesco Boccia, on Monday came amid mounting concern that people are mingling dangerously close to one another on beaches, in bars and on public squares.

“The volunteers will not be vigilantes, but spreaders of good behaviour,’’ Bari Mayor and head of the Italian Mayors’ Association (ANCI) Antonio Decaro told Monday’s La Repubblica newspaper. According to Boccia, they will be called “civic assistants” and wear blue vests.

“They will be armed with the strength of persuasion, reason and their smiles,’’ he told La Stampa daily. Boccia wrote on Facebook that a recruitment call, open to all citizens but with priority given to the unemployed and recipients of welfare aid, is to be published by the Civil Protection Agency this week.

Italy suffered a devastating outbreak of the coronavirus, however, the epidemic peaked in late March, and after weeks of falling infection numbers the country’s lockdown was de facto ended on May 18.

In his La Stampa interview, Boccia said the goverment used “a carrot-and-stick approach” which “has worked,” but warned that a further easing of restrictions could be delayed if people misbehaved.

Authorities are currently scheduled to end a ban on travel between regions from June 3. On the same date, Italy is set to reopen its borders to tourists from other European Union countries.

As of Sunday, Italy reported 32,785 deaths from COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus and 229,858 virus cases. DPA

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