Coronavirus: Newsstands go on in Italy lockdown

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Restrictions to combat coronavirus had raised questions on whether print newspapers are necessary

Italy recently imposed strict restrictions to combat the spread of Covid-19 (coronavirus), forcing the closure of all non-essential businesses and establishments. Alongside places that sell food and medicine, traditional Italian newsstands – known as the edicole – were allowed to continue operation.

According to a report published on the website of news organization Quartz, Carlo Verdelli, director of Italian daily la Repubblica, published a note asking for newsstands to be added to the list of essential services on March 11. Subsequently, discussions on whether print newspapers and the newsstands that sell them are necessary surfaced on social media.

Verdelli, the trade association of newspapers and national union of newsagents argued that newsstands should stay open as access to information is integral during the ongoing crisis. On the other hand, a number of social media users claimed newsstands should be closed as they may facilitate the spread of coronavirus and information can easily be found online.

The number of newsstands in Italy dropped from 18,400 to 14,300 in the last decade. If newsstands that sell souvenirs to tourists are excluded, then the number of newsstands drops to 5,000.  However, a third of the Italian population still get their news from print newspapers, reports Quartz.

Newsstand owners claim print newspapers are essential for elderly readers, who are among the most at risk from coronavirus. Many f them deem print newspapers more trustworthy and wish to get their news from the specific columnists who have informed the for decades.

Furthermore, the newsstand owners also said the edicole do not just provide information. They give their readers a distraction from the trying times, and many are buying magazines, books and puzzles heavily to get through isolation.

Italian newsstands have seen a bump in sales during the lockdown, with long lines at many of them, according to Quartz.