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LA STAMPA

Italian Businesses Slam 'Draconian' Coronavirus Controls

Entrepreneurs say ‘Basta’ to stop the ordinances they say risk paralyzing the economy.

Taking precautions in Milan
Taking precautions in Milan
Paolo Possamai

VENICE — Two days ago, a leading Italian industrialist circulated a photoshopped image of Da Vinci's Last Supper to his contacts via WhatsApp. All that was left of the iconic painting was the laid table — no trace of the apostles, let alone Christ. And the caption? "We're exaggerating here in Milan."

Every Italian businessperson with a budget to balance, from the region of Lombardy to Veneto, from major corporations to the local bar, feels the same way.

"We are in the presence of an authentic panic effect, generated by political communication and by ordinances perceived as excessive," says Agostino Bonomo, president of Confartigianato Veneto, the local branch of a national small business and craftsmen's association.

"I hope the decrees won't be upheld, there are thousands upon thousands of small businesses that live off their daily receipts to pay suppliers, employees, bills and mortgages," he adds. "There is a real danger of an extremely serious crisis, never before seen, caused by the collapse of internal consumption and exports. Paralysis of this country's economic life."

Antonio Santocono touches on the same themes in his analysis of the effects of the coronavirus ordinances. His experience, both as an entrepreneur (he is the founder of IT company Corvallis, which in 2018 boasted 160 million euros in revenue) and as the president of the Chamber of Commerce of the northern city of Padua, gives him a razor-sharp judgment on the issue.

"We are facing a very dramatic short-circuiting of the economy," Santocono says, "where a combination of the widespread panic among the people, which is understandable, and the folly of political measures that are completely out of proportion, can bring about an unprecedented crisis. We seem to be convinced that safeguarding the health of the populace can be achieved without destroying the economic fabric."

But what concrete effects can he see on his daily business activity? "What expression can I use, if not "folly", when the client companies of my consulting firm call to ask us not to send any technicians from Veneto?"

Empty tables in a Milan restaurant Xinhua/ZUMA Wire/ZUMA

Vincenzo Marinese, president of regional entrepreneurial association Confindustria Venezio e Rovigo, recounts a similar anecdote this week: a Croatian supplier was scheduled to deliver a load of quicklime to Marghera, near Venice, where one of Marinese's companies is headquartered, but refused to fill the order. The reason? If he did, he would be barred from re-entering Croatia upon return.

"We are dealing with a crazed communication strategy that risks fueling an unjustified panic and cost us tens of billions in damages," Marinese insists. "We need to be aware of the fact that exports are going to resume slowly, and that it will take a long time for the situation to return to normalcy."

Not to mention unbridled rage against whoever talks of "smart working" as though it were a cure-all: does it seem possible to keep the lathe running from your living room? They ask for help, information, and push for their interest groups to pound their fists on the desks of Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte and Veneto President Luca Zaia— politicians joined together for the first time in this collective "thumbs down."

And in its way, the request for permission to enact layoffs put forward by eyewear giants in the Belluno province of Veneto — Safilo, De Rigo, Marcolin — also reflects the Covid-19 wave.

The anger is mounting in factories and artisanal shops just as it is among baristas, restaurateurs, tobacconists, and shopkeepers.

We're risking catastrophe.

Patrizio Bertin, president of the representative group Confcommercio Veneto, attests to "enormous worry. We're risking catastrophe. The political communication has generated a sort of terroristic alarm. This is how the nation dies. I observe an anomalous disproportion between the risk of coronavirus and the certainty of the pandemic on the economy."

But what has happened in Bertin's businesses these past few days? "Yesterday we didn't even make enough money to cover the electricity for the day."

Indeed, tourism is the sector most profoundly rocked by the Covid-19 ordinances. "Tourism is founded upon trust. We have terrorized our clientele and blown up our reputation before the world's eyes," he concludes.

Marco Michelli, hotelier in the Venetian seaside resort of Bibione and national vice president of the Confturismo tourism industry association, signals that "a burst of cancellations on summer reservations are flooding in from Germany and Northern Europe, and we can already forget about Easter."

The city is now offering rooms at 30 to 40 euros per night and still reporting a 40% decline in reservations.

"We have implemented draconian measures and performed thousands upon thousands of tests— it's no wonder fewer cases are coming out of France and Germany, they're not looking for them!" exclaims Michelli. "We have to hope the decree won't be prolonged because it would be the kiss of death to the first touristic destination in Italy."

It's with a virtually unified voice that the plea rings out: Don't renew the ordinances!

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Society

Star Trek And The Journey From Science Fiction To Pseudoscience

Fans of Star Trek live in a Golden Age where old and new series are readily available. As one hardcore Trekkie points out, the franchise is a reminder of the similarities and differences between pseudoscience and science fiction.

Image of holographic bodies standing next to each other in an office

Holographic figures of the same person standing beside each other.

Carlos Orsi

-Essay-

For my Trekkie part, I'm still a fan of the old ones: I still remember the disappointment when a Brazilian TV channel stopped airing the original series, and then there was a wait (sometimes years) until someone else decided to show it.

Living deep in São Paulo, Brazil in the 1990s, it was also torturous for me when “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” premiered on a station whose signal was very bad in my city.

I don't remember when I saw the original cast for the first time, but I remember that when Star Trek made the transition to the cinema in 1979, in Robert Wise's film, the protagonists James Kirk (William Shatner), Spock (Leonard Nimoy), Leonard McCoy (DeForest Kelley), Montgomery Scott (James Doohan) and the Starship Enterprise were already old acquaintances.

And I was only eight years old. Nowadays, given the scarcity of time and attention that are the hallmarks of the contemporary world, I limit myself to following spinoffs Picard and Strange New Worlds and reviewing films made for cinema, from time to time.

So, when a cinema close to my house decided to show the 40th anniversary of The Wrath of Khan (originally released in 1982), I rushed to secure a ticket. And there in the middle of the film, I had a small epiphany: the Star Trek Universe is pseudoscientific!

This realization does not necessarily represent a problem: contrary to what many imagine, science fiction exists to make you think and have fun, not to prepare for a national test).

Yet in a franchise that has always made a lot of effort to maintain an aura of scientific bona fides (Isaac Asimov was a consultant on the first film, and the book The Physics of Star Trek has a preface by Stephen Hawking!), the finding was a bit of a shock.

And what made me jump out of the chair?

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