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Thanks for supporting The Local during lockdown – here’s what we’re doing for readers

The Local Italy's editor looks back on nearly six months of reporting on the coronavirus crisis – and asks what members would like to see us write more about in future.

Thanks for supporting The Local during lockdown - here's what we're doing for readers
People stand at their windows during lockdown in Italy, the first country to suffer an outbreak outside of China.. Photo: Tiziana Fabi/AFP

On the morning of Friday, February 21st, we learned that three cases of coronavirus had been confirmed in northern Italy. I remember the sense of dread I felt as we reported a few hours later that the number had doubled.

By the next day the first localised lockdowns had begun, and Italy had reported its first fatality – the first European known to have died from the disease, which we weren’t yet calling Covid-19. Within days there were hundreds of cases.
I was getting countless calls and messages from worried friends and family abroad asking about the situation in Italy, many asking me to fact-check things they'd heard on the international news  At that moment, what people with connections to Italy, and English-speakers living in the country, told me they needed was simply clear, verified information written in a straightforward way. We were determined that The Local’s reporting would provide it.
Our aim has always been to explain the situation here and to help you keep track of the latest rules, decrees, and numbers.
Throughout the crisis, we've also brought readers details of the latest official updates and explained what they meant, corrected the inaccuracies reported in some international media, and interviewed some of Italy's most respected scientific experts.
When we made the decision early on to remove the paywall from essential coverage of the crisis, we asked paying members if they approved – you overwhelmingly agreed that it was the right thing to do.
Another priority for us has been telling your stories and getting answers to your questions – partiicularly after Italy moved out of the emergency phase, and we all tried to adjust to life under various restrictions.
We recently published a series of in-depth articles related to travel to Italy from the US, as the ongoing restrictions are of course a major issue for so many of our readers who live internationally.
All of these articles were informed by your questions, and featured the real-life experiences of our readers. Here are some examples:
We've had a very positive response to these articles, with one member in the Campania region writing in to say: “The Local is the only news source providing practical and detailed information on travel to Italy. Every other source writes in general terms and without firsthand knowledge.”
We've also been looking in detail at what's being done to help people in Italy through the crisis.
We received a grant from the Solutions Journalism Network to take an in-depth look at the responses to different parts of the coronavirus crisis in Italy, and across Europe: what's worked, what hasn't, and why, through a series of articles.
Here are some of those pieces:
While reporting on it, we’ve been living through this pandemic just like readers. Reporting on something you’re living through yourself – particularly while shut in your apartment for months – is quite intense, so we really appreciated every kind and encouraging word from our members.
It was near-impossible to disconnect from work at the peak of the crisis. We wanted to follow what was happening at all times – and when I say we worked around the clock, I’m not exaggerating. 
It didn’t help that the Italian Prime Minister developed an unfortunate habit of giving important speeches late in the evening. I remember sitting up until after 2am one night waiting for him to appear, and translating what he was saying into English for our news report.  I know many of my colleagues across Europe were working at all hours, too.
But like everyone else, we’ve also been worried about the future of our jobs and business. So many media companies have had to lay off staff. Here at The Local, our advertising revenues plummeted due to the crisis.
We were rescued by the record number of readers who signed up as paying members. There are now 27,000 of you – and if we reach 40,000, The Local will become sustainable on membership alone.
We really couldn’t write these articles without support from our members. Thank you.
We hope you'll stick with us. In return, we'll keep on working hard to bring you the facts and explain life in Italy, and around Europe. The Local is also reinvesting in increasing our coverage and improving our sites.

The Local's staff from our nine European sites flew to Stockholm for a meetup in January, just weeks before the pandemic hit. Photo: Tim Marringa/The Local
We also hope that members will keep telling us what they want and need to know in future, whether that’s pandemic-related or another essential issue, from understanding the language and culture to bureaucracy, finances and Brexit.
We’ve received more emails than ever from readers in the past few months, full of bright ideas and thoughtful comments. We haven’t always been able to reply, simply because of the number of messages we’ve been getting, but we do read and appreciate them all.
Now I’m asking our members to send me another email, with any more thoughts and suggestions you have for our coverage of Italy in future. If you have a story idea that should be added to our list, or if you have any burning questions we might be able to answer, please email them to me here.
Grazie mille,
Clare Speak
Editor, The Local Italy


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‘Super green pass’: How is Italy enforcing the new Covid rules?

Italian police handed out almost 1,000 fines to people who failed to show the new Covid 'super green pass' document on the first day of new restrictions on Monday. But where and how are checks being carried out?

'Super green pass': How is Italy enforcing the new Covid rules?
Photo: Vincenzo Pinto/AFP

Italy on Monday December 6th introduced new restrictions for those who are not vaccinated against or recovered from Covid-19 under so-called ‘super green pass’ rules.

Italy has since August required people to show a green pass which could also be obtained via a negative test result, and these ‘basic’ green passes will continue to be valid for access to workplaces, local public transport and venues deemed essential.

But access to many cultural and leisure venues, including nightclubs and sports facilities, is now restricted to those who can prove they are vaccinated or recovered under the new ‘super’ or reinforced green pass rules. Health passes which were issued based on recovery or vaccination will remain valid for entry to all venues.

More venues will fall under these restrictions in any regions declared higher-risk ‘orange’ zones under Italy’s tiered system of heath measures, though this does not currently apply to any part of the country.

MAP: The Italian regions at risk of becoming ‘yellow’ zones in December

The rule changes also mean hotels and local forms of public transport must now require a ‘basic’ green pass (which can be based on negative test results) for entry.

Business owners are required to ensure customers comply with the rules by checking green passes using the verification app – and if they’re found not to have done so, both staff and customers face fines and the business could be temporarily closed.

The health ministry on Sunday stated that it had updated its Verifica C-19 app, which is used to check the validity of green passes.

Holders of green passes (issued based on vaccination or proof of recovery) don’t need to do anything to obtain a ‘super’ green pass: their current passes will remain valid for entry where required if operators download and use the new version of the verification app.

READ ALSO: How Italy’s Covid green pass rules changed on Monday

But doubts remain as to how the rules can be enforced in some situations, particularly on public transport at peak times.

The Italian Transport Ministry is reportedly working on a new electronic ticketing system which would mean green passes were needed when purchasing tickets, but so far there’s no indication of when this may be launched.

A new ordinance published by the Interior Ministry on Monday stated that more police checks would be carried out on public transport and on businesses to ensure compliance with the new system.

Interior Minster Luciana Lamorgese insisted the checks on green pass compliance would be “rigorous”.

“I have read in some media that the Interior Ministry is taking a soft line,” she told reporters on Monday.

“It’s not true. Our line is one of rigor: public health must be guaranteed, the right to serenity when you go out.”

Some 937 fines in total were issued to people who were unable to show a green pass, according to news agency Ansa, and a further 2,000 fines were handed out on the same day to people not following the rules on wearing masks, following a total of 119.539 police checks.

Police shut down at least one bar in Rome for five days on Monday and fined the owner and members of staff, Ansa reports, as they did not have a basic version of the green pass certificate – which has been required in all workplaces in Italy since October 15th.

Currently masks are required in all indoor public places as well as in crowded outdoor areas in ‘white’ zones, and at all times in public, including outdoors, in ‘yellow’ zones as well as in the central areas of numerous Italian cities which have brought in stricter local rules.

Anyone who is unable to show a green pass or wear a mask when required risks fines of 400 euros or more, the new ordinance published by the Interior Ministry on Monday confirmed.

Anyone found at indoor restaurants or events without a the ‘super’ green pass can be removed from the venue and fined between 400 and 1,000 euros, the ordinance states.

The same fines apply to passengers on long-distance trains, domestic flights, local public transport, and customers at gyms, swimming pools, and hotels found to be without a green pass, and to the managers of businesses found not to have carried out checks 

After three fines on three different days a business can be shut down for up to ten days. 

In workplaces, the existing penalties remain in place: those found without green passes can be suspended without pay for five days and fined from 600 to 1,500 euros; while employers who don’t carry out checks can be fined from 400 to 1,000 euros.