Rome
© Reuters / Alberto Lingria
People walking on a beach in Santa Severa, near Rome, as Italy begins easing of lockdown restrictions
The Italian government is preparing to recruit unemployed citizens to act as volunteer social-distancing enforcers, who will operate amongst the masses as life returns to a semi-normal state after the Covid-19 lockdown.

The government will publish a call this week for 60,000 so-called "civic assistants" to help perform control and assistance tasks - like reporting social distancing infractions or a lack of masks - during its reopening phase, to prevent non-compliance and a new surge in infections, AdnKronos reported.

The government will specifically target unemployed people who are availing of social benefits to perform the snooping and snitching on a "voluntary basis." Those who sign up will be demonstrating a "great civic sense" a government note announcing the plan says.

The informants will wear a blue bib with the words "civic assistant" written across it and will remind people "with kindness" that sacrifices still need to be made to protect the vulnerable, Minister of Regional Affairs Francesco Boccia said on TG1 news channel. Italy has been one of the European countries hardest-hit by the Covid-19 virus, with over 32,000 deaths and nearly 230,000 confirmed cases.

Unsurprisingly, however, the plan for social snitching has not gone down very well on either the right or left of Italian politics.

Carlo Calenda, an MEP of the left-leaning Action party, slammed the "paternalistic" move, in a video posted on social media. It's not possible that 60,000 people without experience and who are not law enforcement officials can go around the country "telling Italians what to do on the basis of rules that nobody understands," he said.


President of the right-wing Fratelli d'Italia (Brothers of Italy) party Giorgia Meloni also slammed the concept in a Facebook post, describing the planned recruits as "a militia authorized by the government" and accusing the government of drifting into authoritarianism.

Former prime minister Matteo Renzi also weighed in, calling the plan "madness" and saying that, if premises are open, people will use them. The only way to deal with the influx is to have limited numbers allowed and procedures and controls in place to enforce those rules - "not a host of influencers" who report on other citizens.

The plan also ignited outrage and disbelief on social media, with some wondering if they would need to show documentation to people who are not actually public officials. Economist and author Ilaria Bifarini described the situation as being like an "Orwellian dictatorship based on hatred and mutual distrust."

Another tweeter questioned the sanity of putting random people out on the streets to confront large groups of young people who may be drinking alcohol, asking: "Whatever could go wrong?"