The Italian government is calling for 60,000 “civic assistants” to help them tackle social distancing rule-breakers but it has received backlash for the plan. The informants are expected to wear blue bibs with the words, “civic assistant” written across it as the Minister of Regional Affairs Francesco Boccia expects to receive more than the needed amount of applications. The move has been described as an “Orwellian dictatorship” by economist and author Ilaria Bifarini as residents fear it will spark tension in communities.
One resident told RT: “There is a great risk of a culture of snitching. They will put us against each other.
“It will be a typical war between the poorest people.”
Another added: “I still don’t understand if they’re paid or not and who hires them. There’s too much confusion around these civic assistants.
“There are already too many cameras around Rome, people will get angrier and might show their dissent.”
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A third, who supports the use of assistants, said: “These civic assistants could be useful because in this phase, people are getting more relaxed in the safety measures.”
But a fourth resident noted: “This service must be carried out by the local police, the state police and other law enforcement agencies.
“There is a risk of developing a culture of suspecting everyone. In any case, we don’t want voluntary work, we need actual jobs.”
It comes as the governor of Lombardy, the northern region at the epicentre of Italy’s coronavirus outbreak, said on Wednesday that he had been given a police escort after growing criticism of his administration’s handling of the crisis.
Lombardy, Italy’s richest and most populous region and the motor of its economy, is one of the worst affected areas of the world by the coronavirus, accounting for around half of the country’s more than 32,000 dead.
The regional government, controlled by opposition leader Matteo Salvini’s anti-immigrant League party, has seen approval ratings plunge amid angry attacks on its response and on health sector reforms by previous League governments that many say left the region badly prepared to face the epidemic.
Regional governor Attilio Fontana, a close Salvini ally, gave no details of the security escort but said the decision to assign one had not been at his request but had been decided by the “relevant authorities”.
“I’m sorry for the sake of my family who have been a bit worried,” he said in a statement. “Over recent days, there’s been too much venom.”
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“Unfortunately, it’s the result of lies told by certain political forces which have poisoned the atmosphere and stirred up this dangerous climate of hatred.”
The decision to assign the escort, as Italy has begun to ease lockdown restrictions imposed almost three months ago, highlighted widespread public anger at the handling of both the health crisis and the lockdown measures.
Authorities said Education Minister Lucia Azzolina and Deputy Health Minister Pierpaolo Sileri, had also been assigned security details in recent days.
“We’ve been collecting dozens and dozens of threats on social media. There are so many of them and they’re part of this climate of hatred,” Fontana’s lawyer Jacopo Pensa was quoted as saying by business daily Il Sole 24 Ore.