ROME - Muted New Year’s Eve celebrations were expected in Italy, where tight restrictions are in place to curb the spread of COVID-19. The government has deployed thousands of police officers to ensure that rules are adhered to and that Italians do not hold large gatherings to celebrate the start of 2021. Adding to an abnormal end to the year is the Vatican’s announcement that Pope Francis will not preside over New Year’s Eve and Day services due to a painful back condition.
Italians have grown used to the tight restrictions that come into place when the country is categorized a red zone.
Until January 4, Italians will not be able to leave their homes unless they have filled out a self-declaration that explains where they are going. They will only be allowed to visit someone else’s home with one other person. Only people who need to go to work or have a health motive or an emergency are allowed out.
All shops will be closed, except those for food and other urgent necessities like pharmacies. All bars and restaurants across the country will be closed except for carry out service.
This restaurant owner said being placed in a red zone has meant working less than half what they were used to. The economic damage suffered by the sector has been significant with many fearful they will not be able to keep their businesses going in the future.
Italian authorities have warned against large family gatherings. They have also tried to dissuade anyone from setting off fireworks to avoid accidents that could cause an extra burden on hospitals.
While Italians are only too aware this will be a New Year’s Eve like they have never experienced, some are preparing to make the most of it, in their desire to bid this coronavirus-stricken year farewell.
This man said, “We will see few friends, a relative or two and during times we are allowed to see each other.”
Italy has a curfew in place from 10pm until 7am for the next four days. Travelling out of one’s municipality is also banned. Fines are stiff, so few are expected to take unnecessary risks.
The recent news that COVID-19 vaccines have arrived in Italy and are being administered has many hoping there is a light at the end of the tunnel and that 2021 will be a better year than the one coming to an end. Still, not everyone in Italy is in favor of getting vaccinated, and many know the road ahead remains a long one.
New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day will also be quite different at the Vatican.
Pope Francis is being forced to skip his traditional services because of a painful back and right leg problem. The Vatican’s spokesman, Matteo Bruni, said the pope is suffering from “sciatica” and will not be presiding at a year-end prayer service Thursday evening and will also not be celebrating Mass on New Year's Day, both inside St. Peter's Basilica.
The pope is expected to deliver his Angelus prayer at noon on Friday, which will be streamed online from the library of the Apostolic Palace.