Protesters scuffle again with Italian police over COVID-19 curbs

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ROME, April 12 (Reuters) – Protesters scuffled with police for a second week running on Monday as frustrated restaurant and small business owners demonstrated against continued coronavirus restrictions that are pounding the economy.

Around 200 people from all over Italy tried to reach Prime Minister Mario Draghi’s office, but were held back by lines of police in full riot gear.

Chanting “we are all workers”, some protesters hurled stones at the police lines, and let off fireworks, which filled the street with billowing smoke.

“The problem is we just don’t know what to do. They tell us that we can only do take-aways, but in my neighbourhood with a population of 3,000, what kind of take-aways can I do?” said Silvio Bessone, a chef from the northern Piedmont region.

The government has imposed repeated curbs over the past 14 months to try to contain COVID-19, which has killed more than 114,000 people in Italy, the second worst official tally in Europe after Britain.

While an initial national lockdown in March 2020 was widely accepted, the announcement of renewed restrictions in October faced immediate pushback in several Italian cities.

Those protests faded as infection rates soared, but the decision to prolong curbs into the spring, with no firm date for when they might be eased, has once again raised hackles. (Reporting by Antonio Denti; Editing by Crispian Balmer and Gareth Jones)