An Italian company has proposed a wild idea for plastic beach cubicles as the nation debates how to safely get people back by the sea.
Italy has been devastated by the coronavirus pandemic, with more than 172,000 cases of the disease confirmed across the country and more than 22,000 deaths – the world’s highest death toll.
But after several weeks of lockdown, infections have begun to stabilise and the government is mulling how and when to restore some normality.
Top of Lorenza Bonaccorsi’s mind are beaches.
“We will go to the sea this summer,” the secretary for culture and tourism declared this week. “We’re working on it.”
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Holidaymakers normally flock to Italy’s pristine beaches at this time of year. But health authorities have warned social distancing measures may need to continue through summer, even by the sea.
“Solutions can be found: from the spacing of the umbrellas to the sanitisation of the equipment to the medical certification,” Antonio Capacchione, the president of the seaside union, has said.
But one company has proposed a wilder idea: installing transparent, plexiglass cubicles along the shore where people can sunbathe in safety.
“The idea was born with the dual purpose of protecting but also of restarting activities … in our opinion it can work,” Claudio Ferrari, the owner of Nuova Neon Group 2, told La Repubblica.
“We are already working to create screens for banks, pharmacies and so we have thought of extending the work to commercial activities,” he said.
Sketches show the cubicles would be 4.5 metres wide – big enough to fit two sun lounges and an umbrella – with 2-metre tall walls.
“We can achieve any size and shape … we have already received several requests from both beach workers and restaurateurs,” Mr Ferrari said.
ITALY’S TOURISM INDUSTRY ON ITS KNEES
The cubicles have been laughed at by some. But Mr Ferrari has said he could make thousands of boxes by July and had already received requests from Spain.
Meanwhile, Italy’s tourism industry remains on its knees.
The industry employs an estimated 4.2 million people – or just under a fifth of the country’s entire official workforce.
It’s worth about 200 billion euros ($A341 billion) a year and provides an important knock-on effect for other sectors, according to the Confturismo tourism association.
“One hundred euros spent on tourism generates 86 euros in other sectors,” including the food sector and real estate, the association’s Alberto Corti said.
Reopening beaches would help the industry get back on track, but Lorenza Bonaccorsi says it will likely take one to two years for business to recover and 2020 might as well be “written off”.
“You will not see the long queues outside the Colosseum (like) you used to,” she said.
The country is hoping domestic tourists, who normally account for half of Italy’s total, will help make up some of the damage.
According to a survey done for Confturismo, seven out of every 10 Italians think the crisis will be over in two or three months. Nearly half say they would then be ready to go on holiday somewhere in Italy.
– With wires