Orange vest protestors have taken to the streets of Italian cities to demonstrate against the Government's strict Covid pandemic lockdown, claiming the virus 'does not exist'.
The anti-lockdown group are demanding for Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte's Government to be replaced by a national Government and the 'return to the Italian lira'.
Italian businesses have only recently been allowed to reopen after more than two months of a nationwide lockdown meant to curb the spread of the virus, but hundreds took to the streets in Rome and Milan to demand an immediate end to the restrictions.
The country has confirmed 232,664 coronavirus cases and a death toll of 33,340, having at one point suffered the highest death rate in the world.
The group, led by ex-general of the carabinieri Antonio Pappalardo, converged on the Piazza Duomo in Milan this morning, disregarding social distancing measures and with almost no one wearing face masks.
They were joined for the protests by the far right groups 'March on Rome' in the country's capital, as well as neo-fascists Casapound. It is reported that all the groups are demanding an end to the lockdown measures with immediate effect.
In a moment of tension, protesters in Rome with raised arms approached a riot police cordon that blocked the group's way, before trying to push over an armoured police car.
'Get us through,' they were reported as shouting by La Repubblica. Police then used pepper spray to disperse the crowd of around 70 protestors according to police reports.
Milan's mayor Beppe Sala shared his anger at the protestors on twitter, saying: 'I asked the prefect to denounce the organizers of the so-called "orange vests" demonstration: it is an act of irresponsibility in a city like Milan that is trying so hard to get out of the difficult situation where it is.'
Some among the crowds were also protesting the economic hardship the lockdown has brought, with thousands of businesses forced to shut leaving families without income.
'Here are people who don't eat,' said one protestor from Bergamo. 'There are people who have not taken a salary for 4 months. We are hungry. They made us die.'
Prime Minister has said that the country is taking a 'calculated risk' as it moves to further ease its coronavirus lockdown measures in an attempt to return to a new normal and revive a flailing economy.
The premier added that while the 'contagion curve' could rise again, the country could not afford to wait for a vaccine to be developed.
Mr Conte announced that travel to and from Italy, and between the country's regions would be allowed from 3 June, and gyms, swimming pools and sports centres will reopen on 25 May, and cinemas and theatres on 15 June.
Travellers from EU countries will be able to enter Italy without going into a two-week quarantine.
This article has been adapted from its original source.
© Associated Newspapers Ltd.