Italian officials have offered to create a 60,000-strong corps of volunteer “civic assistants” who would remind people of the need to observe measures against coronavirus infection as the country emerges from lockdown.
The force, to be drawn from among pensioners and the unemployed, is the brainchild of Regional Affairs Minister Francesco Boccia and Antonio Decaro, mayor of the southern city of Bari.
The civil protection unit, which manages the various volunteers helping to fight against the COVID-19 epidemic that has caused nearly 33,000 deaths in Italy, would be charged with the recruitment.
They would answer questions and remind the public of social distancing rules, or the need to wear masks, in crowded areas such as beaches, parks and city streets. The volunteers would not be able to fine people.
Decaro said Monday that some of these potential volunteers had already “helped deliver groceries or medicines to those who could not leave their homes during the crisis.”
“In this new phase, they will help control access to parks or markets, counting the number of people entering or leaving, or explaining the rules of access to beaches when they reopen,” Decaro, who is also president of the Association of Italian Municipalities, said in a statement.
Some authorities said they welcomed the idea of more help in the aftermath of the coronavirus crisis as they struggle with crowd control at bars, cafes and beaches after two months of lockdown.
“Civic assistants can be useful,” said Paolo Truzu, mayor Sardinia’s capital Cagliari, adding that he envisioned them helping on his city’s beaches.
Others, however, scoffed at the idea.
“How can we think that 60,000 people found who knows where, trained who knows where will be going around Italy telling Italians what to do on the basis of rules that nobody understands?” asked former government minister Carlo Calenda, leader of the small centrist Azione party, on Twitter.
“Is this normal and legitimate in a democratic country?”
Giordano Masini, member of the pro-European Piu Europa (More Europe) party, said what Italy needed was more capable professionals.
“We need doctors, nurses, social workers, teachers, educated people,” Masini said.