Police in the Italian city of Milan fined a couple with 400 euros (US $468) for flouting the mandatory mask rule by kissing in public, according to local reports. The incident came at a time when Italian law enforcement officials have been cracking down on people remotely breaking social distancing guidelines and the mask mandate in a country that struggled with Covid-19 in the initial months of the ongoing pandemic.
The latest incident happened on Oct. 9 when a 40-year-old Italian man and a Polish woman were headed to a restaurant. On their way, the couple removed their masks and kissed each other. Shortly after, four police officers surrounded them and told them they violated the mask mandate.
The couple told the officers that they were engaged for over two years and provided proof of their relationship, including photos, identification documents and even messages, according to Il Giornale newspaper. They also said that they were alone and nobody was nearby them when they kissed.
As per the rule, people living together are exempted from wearing masks within one meter of each other. However, the couple's documentation showed two separate addresses because of which the Milan police fined them 400 euros. The man reportedly filed an appeal against the fine.
The incident followed another crackdown by Italian police on a man who lied alone in the middle of the beach in Rimini and fined him. The police used drones, ATVs, and a jeep to located the man — a move widely criticized in the country.
Earlier this year, several European countries struggled to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus as people ignored the social distancing guidelines. Governments imposed strict lockdowns and made it mandatory for people to stay at home. The social distancing rules have particularly impacted as the social custom of kissing on cheeks and hugging have been entrenched in the cultures of several European countries.
"We have a collective social life that is very florid, very expansive. We have lots of contact, we shake hands, we kiss each other, we hug each other," Angello Borrelli, the head of Italy's Civil Protection agency said in March. "Maybe it is better in this period not to shake hands, and do not have too much contact, and try to be a bit less expansive, which is different from how I am."
Spain and Germany, where the tradition of cheek-kissing and shaking hands respectively is a social and cultural norm, have also taken a step back and imposed social distancing rules.