Italy and Spain riots erupt over coronavirus curfew with petrol bombs thrown at cops and stores ransacked

PROTESTERS ransacked shops and hurled petrol bombs at police in Italy and Spain last night over new restrictions to curb the spread of coronavirus.

Violence erupted in the Italian city of Turin as protesters smashed windows, set off smoke bombs and hurled bottles at cops.

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Luxury clothing shops, including a Gucci store, were ransacked in the city centre as crowds of youths took to the streets to set off firecrackers and coloured flares.

Police fired tear gas to disperse the violent crowds.

Hours earlier, 300 taxis peacefully lined up in neat rows in the same area to draw attention to the financial losses from the pandemic.

In nearby Milan, police also used tear gas to scatter protesters as crowds chanted "freedom, freedom, freedom" and hurled petrol bombs in the city centre.

The unrest was blamed on extremist agitators and police said 28 people had been arrested in the capital.

There were also clashes in Spain last night as hundreds gathered in Barcelona to protest the Spanish and Catalan governments’ latest coronavirus restrictions.

Protesters set fire to bins and lit flares in the street to demonstrate against curfews.

Protests in Italy have been prompted by a government order to close bars, cafes and restaurants at 6pm, which lasts until November 24, also took place in Rome, Genoa, Palermo and Trieste.

Several Italian regions and cities had already slapped on overnight curfews to cut down on young people congregating outdoors.

Last week, a peaceful march by shopkeepers in Naples over a regional 11pm curfew turned violent near the Campania region’s headquarters.

Police officers were injured, according to Italian media, during the violence led by Camorra, the local organised crime group.

A day later, an extreme right political group staged a violent demonstration in central Rome.

The new restrictions were announced by the government on Sunday, a day after Italy registered more than a half a million confirmed coronavirus cases since the outbreak began.

On Sunday, Italy registered 21,273 new confirmed cases and 128 deaths.

Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte has insisted people keep wearing masks outdoors, while cinemas, gyms, pools have also been closed under the new restrictions.

He said he wanted to avoid another blanket lockdown and vowed to speed up financial help for businesses impacted by the pandemic.

Conte said he understands the frustration of citizens.

"I’d feel anger, too, towards the government" he said.

Restaurant and bar owners had lobbied hard against the new measures, which now order them to close at 6pm daily.

Most restaurants in Italy usually do not start to serve dinner before 8pm so the restriction has devastated revenues.

Cafes and restaurants were allowed to reopen in recent months for outdoor dining or limited indoor seating.

Under the new rules, no more than four diners will be allowed per restaurant table before the curfew unless they are from the same family.

Ski slopes are also off-limits to all but competitive skiers, whie all spectators are banned from stadiums during professional sports matches, including football.

Receptions after religious gatherings or weddings are also banned.

The new restrictions continues to exempt children younger than six and those exercising outdoors from wearing masks.

"We all have to do small sacrifices," Conte said.

"If we can’t go to the gym, we can exercise outdoors."

Conte has kept primary and middle schools open but said 75 per cent of high school pupils will have remote classes.

By early summer, after Italy’s lockdown was all but lifted, new virus caseloads had dropped to as low as 200 a day.

"We did it then, we can do it now," Conte said.

Elsewhere in Europe, France has warned of possible new lockdown measures, as hospitals fill up with new coronavirus patients and doctors plead for help.

President Emmanuel Macron is convening top ministers, while prime minister Jean Castex is meeting with politicians, unions and business lobbies as the government considers its next steps in the fight against surging case numbers.

Among possible new measures for the hardest-hit areas are extending existing curfews, full lockdowns at weekends or during the week, and closing non-essential businesses.

Interior minister Gerald Darmanin told France-Inter radio that "we should expect difficult decisions".

France is now reporting more than 350 new cases per 100,000 people each week, and nearly 18 per cent of its widespread tests are now coming back positive.

It has reported Europe’s third-highest virus death toll, at more than 35,000 lives lost.

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