Social distancing and masks until COVID vaccine ready-Conte

Contact-tracing app will be voluntary says premier

(ANSA) - Rome, April 21 - Social distancing and facemasks will be needed in phase two of the coronavirus emergency until a vaccine is ready for use, Premier Giuseppe Conte said Tuesday.
    A contact tracing app will be voluntary and without penalties for those who don't sign up, he added in briefing the Senate on phase two.
    The premier said "we will reactivate the country's economic engine with a structured programme" and said that social distancing norms would be "modified" in phase two.
    Conte stressed that reopening activities must be achieved according to a "homogeneous" programme, implemented on a national basis despite differences in regional governors' requests.
    "Phase two will be complex and haste would wreak damage," he added.
    Conte said a new decree to help businesses and the unemployed would be worth no less than 50 billion euros, bringing the total under two decrees to "no less than 75 billion euros".
    The premier said "the IMF estimates negative growth of 9.1% (this year) so we must boost our economic response".
    He said "there is the risk of new poverty, so we must have more incisive help" for those who have little or no income because of the virus lockdown.
    Conte said he was "fully aware" that parliament must be involved in decision-making, after being criticized for announcing policy on social media.
    He said "a responsible opposition will find me open to their proposals".
    On the European Union, Conte said that "if it repeats the mistakes of 2008, the EU project is at risk".
    Conte has called for a unified European response to the emergency by issuing euro bonds, or 'coronabonds'.
    This has been rejected by northern European countries like Germany and the Netherlands, who argue that the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) bailout fund is enough.
    The topic will top the agenda at an EU summit on Thursday.
    Spain has proposed perpetual bonds but northern deficit hawks says southern European countries must be content with drawing on the ESM with fewer strings attached than in the 2011 sovereign debt crisis.
    Conte told the Senate: "on the now over-famous ESM a debate has been fueled in the last few weeks that risks dividing Italy into opposing fan bases," referring to divisions within government and with the centre-right opposition.
    He said the intention was to proceed "with the utmost caution".
    Parliament would have the last word on activating the ESM, he said.
    Conte has previously said he would not activate the bailout fund.


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