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There is some good news for the Italian book industry. The government has classified books as “essential”, meaning that bookstores such as Florence’s Feltrinelli RED store, can stay open in Covid-19 red zones.
But this is little comfort for those affected by the second wave of the virus. The country has reported more than 100,000 Covid-related deaths, Europe’s second-highest tally after the UK. According to the BBC, ‘Italy’s vaccination campaign has been hit by delays, as has been seen elsewhere in the European Union. Anglo-Swedish drug company AstraZeneca has announced a further shortfall in the amount of its vaccine it can supply to the European Union, blaming export restrictions imposed by some countries.’
Italy has gone into lockdown again with the closure of all schools, museums, hairdressers, non-essential shops and restaurants in the “zone rosse” until at least 6 April.
Essential services such as food shops, pharmacies, banks and post offices remain open, and now, to the relief of booksellers and publishers, Italy has also classified the country’s bookshops as an “essential” service meaning they can stay open even in red zones.
For booksellers, opening is optional and the usual anti-covid rules apply. Bookstores located inside shopping malls are also allowed to open if they wish, and bookdealers can continue making home deliveries. The recognition of books as “essential goods” has been welcomed by Italy’s association of booksellers, ALI Confcommercio.
Meanwhile the Bologna Children’s Book Fair has confirmed its plans for an in-person book fair from 14-17 June, though of course, this will be dependent on how this second wave of the virus is handled.
All being well, Bologna will see the United Arab Emirate of Sharjah as guest of honour country, held over from last year’s cancelled fair. One major difference to the fair this year will be the addition of BolognaBooksPlus, a new general publishing conference that will take place alongside the book fair. It is being organised by guest director Jacks Thomas, the former director of the London Book Fair.