Editor's note: Luca Ciferri, editor and associate publisher of Automotive News Europe, is living under quarantine at his Italian home in Villastellone, just south of Turin. He will be filing daily updates in this blog post.
Starting this morning, Italy is on a two-week quarantine imposed by the government to slow the spread of the new coronavirus, which health authorities here have tied to the deaths of more than 1,000 people.
In an attempt to prevent the contagion's spread without choking the economy, some businesses will be closed until March 25th. Others will operate in low gear. Still others will be unaffected.
Those include the food and health-care industries as well as newsstands. Information is crucial, particularly in dramatic, unprecedented situations like this one. Public transport will be regulated on a regional basis, as will airports. Barber shops and hairdressers are closed; perfume shops are not.
The retail auto sector is in complete turmoil.
The prime minister's decree that took effect this morning does not list car sales as a permitted activity. Lacking specific guidance, several automakers and dealers told me today that they have banned sales but are offering some sorts of service. They're viewing service as a production activity that could go on as long as strict health-protection measures are in place.
This interpretation could be open to debate. Servicing vehicles is not clearly forbidden, but it's also not clearly allowed. As a result, some dealers are taking a more cautious approach: servicing only ambulances or vehicles owned or used by doctors and nurses as well as by elderly people.
Early this morning, the Italian dealer association, Federauto, asked the authorities for guidance on what dealers can and cannot do.
Without an official answer, common sense is the only metric currently available.