Italy’s South Tyrol again flouts Rome over virus closures

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MILAN (AP) — The autonomous province of South Tyrol with its German-speaking majority is flouting Rome’s decision to put it under partial lockdown starting Sunday, with provincial authorities citing its autonomous status to allow stores and restaurants to remain open.

Provincial officials are contesting the criteria that prompted the Rome government to designate South Tyrol a red zone, along with Lombardy and Sicily. The designations require authorities to close nonessential businesses and bars all indoor dining, permitting only takeout and delivery.

Provincial Gov. Arno Kompatshcer said he was “surprised” by the designation. He has registered his disagreement with Italy’s health minister and is staking the province’s case to the technical committee in Rome. But he isn’t waiting for a response, instead allowing all stores to stay open and restaurants to serve until 10 p.m., defying Rome as he did in Maywhen he invoked autonomy to reopen businesses earlier than in the rest of the country.

“This is not a political question, it is technical. We have many more beds available — perhaps this was not taken into consideration,” Kompatscher told RAI state television.

Health officials argue that the high percentage of positives is due to additional screenings with antibody teststhat are revealing more positives and claim that the technical committee in Rome didn’t take into account its decreasing rate of transmission. The province of 520,000 people has registered more than 800 deaths and nearly 33,000 positive cases.

Lombardy governor Atilio Fontana also contests his region’s partial lockdown. He is taking his case to an administrative court this week in a bid to get it overturned, his only recourse.

South Tyrol, or Alto Adige to Italian-speakers, in 1972 won its prized autonomous status, which enshrines bilingualism and allowing 90% of tax revenue to remain in the province. The agreement brought calm to the Alpine province that was once part of Austria following a period of anti-Rome violence in the 1950s and 1960s. Today, it enjoys the highest gross domestic product per capita in Italy.

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