On 21 February 2020, Italy’s first case of Covid‑19 was confirmed in the town of Codogno, near Milan in the Lombardy region. It was the first European country to be impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. The massive containment measures and lockdowns of various degrees of severity imposed to curb the spread since the onset of the pandemic have sunk the EU’s third largest economy into a record post‑war recession, its GDP sliding by 8.9% last year.
To reboot the economy, the Italian government is pinning its hopes on a €222bn five‑year investment and reform plan – the so‑called National Recovery and Resilience Plan. Supported by the €750bn Next Generation EU recovery plan , the aim is to “repair the economic and social damage” wrought by the pandemic and address “weaknesses that have plagued the Italian economy and society for decades”.
Italy, like many countries across Europe, has recently been ramping up restrictions again in an attempt to stem new waves of infections propelled by the spread of deadlier, more contagious variants of the coronavirus. However, the finalisation of the national post‑Covid recovery plan – together with the successful launch of the national vaccination campaign – are bringing Italy and its people closer to normalcy.
Louis Chan, Assistant Principal Economist (Global Research) at HKTDC, interviewed Clemente Contestabile, Italy’s Consul General in Hong Kong, to discover how, from his vantage point, Italy and its businesses are preparing to use Hong Kong’s status as a premier business and trading hub in Asia to aid a post‑Covid recovery in the near future.
Chan: How is the vaccination programme progressing in Italy? Do you have a timetable or a roadmap to indicate when the majority of the population will be vaccinated?
Contestabile: The Italian vaccination programme was launched on 27 December 2020 in coordination with other EU member states. The Italian government has reserved 215 million doses of Covid‑19 vaccines for its 60 million people. The national vaccination plan is now in full force and Italy is ranked among the most effective countries in the world in terms of the number of doses administered.
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