A customer wearing protective mask and gloves looks at books in a bookstore in downtown Rome on April 20, 2020, as some shops reopen following a government decision, during the country's lockdown aimed at curbing the spread of the COVID-19 outbreak, caused by the novel coronavirus. AFP/VNA Photo
ROME — Italy's booksellers and publishers warned the government on Tuesday that the country risks developing "cultural deserts" unless their industry is supported to deal with the consequences of the coronavirus lockdown.
Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte has allowed bookstores to reopen after a six-week suspension of almost all business activity across Italy.
Conte is set to announce this week which other shops and industries can resume operations when the current restrictions end on May 3.
But the publishing industry association said the reopening has not spared booksellers the "most serious crisis in the post-war era".
It said 64 percent of the Mediterranean country's publishers had either furloughed their workers or intended to do so.
The nation of 60 million was on the brink of developing "cultural deserts, especially in the economically weaker areas of the country", the association said.
The Italian government has introduced a "cultural bonus" programme that awarded 18-year-olds 500-euro (US$540) payments upon graduation that they are meant to use for cultural pursuits.
The book sellers urged the government to extend that plan nationally to all age groups to save their industry.
Italy has officially recorded 24,114 COVID-19 deaths – second only to the US. — AFP