Italian restaurants cry for help as COVID bites into New Year’s reservations

ROME – Italian restaurant and club owners are asking for urgent government support due to rising cancellations prompted by a rise in coronavirus infections, they said in a statement on Wednesday.

Business group Fipe-Confcommercio said the rising number of cases and the quarantine rules imposed on close contacts of covid-19 patients had caused 25-30% cancellations of New Year’s Eve dinner reservations.

“December… which alone accounts for 10% of restaurant revenue, is largely compromised,” they said, calling on the government to extend a covid-19 debt moratorium and a severance compensation scheme for workers.

Daily cases have soared this week, peaking at a record 78,313 on Tuesday as the highly contagious variant of Omicron spreads.

Prime Minister Mario Draghi tightened covid-19 rules for the holiday season, banning concerts and outdoor events and closing nightclubs until January 31.

“Discotheques and clubs were literally destroyed without warning,” Confcommercio said.

The virus is ravaging several sectors of public life, including theaters. La Scala opera house in Milan was forced to cancel a ballet scheduled for this week due to rising infections among dancers.

Italy has also imposed restrictions on travellers, including those inside the European Union who must take a coronavirus test before departure, a move that has angered tour operators and hoteliers.

Tourism Minister Massimo Garavaglia said in a statement that he agreed with concerns over the layoff plan and urged the Labor Department to act quickly.

“The spread of the new variant risks causing social damage, as well as hurting income,” he said.

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