Chef's 'cry of despair' goes viral in lockdown Italy

A young Italian chef who has become a symbol of frustration with the never-ending coronavirus crisis said Thursday she wants Prime Minister Mario Draghi to listen to her "despair".

A photo of Camilla Moccia crouching on the floor of the kitchen of her family's restaurant, her head in her knees, has gone viral in Italy and made the front pages of several newspapers.

"My mother took it last Thursday, it was one of those days ... we didn't have any reservations, the weather was not so good and we were waiting for [lockdown] news," the 22-year-old told AFP.

The next day, Draghi announced a three-week "red zone" shutdown for the Rome region and most of Italy, forcing the closure of Moccia's restaurant in Ostia, a suburb of the capital by the sea.

Her mother posted the photo on Facebook, later adding an angry message -- all in capital letters -- about the lack of government help for businesses affected by virus shutdowns.

The picture spread quickly on the web, turning Moccia into an unlikely star.

"I don't like being in the limelight, but I am happy that it struck a chord, it means that the message, our cries of despair, are getting through," she said.

Moccia said her family-run restaurant -- which she described as offering "grandma-style" fresh pasta -- has received only 4,000 euros ($4,770) in state support over the past 12 months.

"If I could meet Draghi, I'd be very happy to look at him in the eye and say... you only talk about vaccinations, please also spare a thought for all those who are going out of business."

Fipe, a trade group for bars, restaurants, night clubs and beach clubs, said on March 1 that turnover for the catering sector shrank by 44.3 per cent year-on-year in October-December 2020.

Draghi's new government, which took over last month, was set Friday to announce a new package of relief measures for virus-stricken business and workers, including a moratorium on tax bills.

More than 103,000 people with Covid-19 have died in Italy since it became the first European country to face the full force of the pandemic just over one year ago.

A third wave of infections is now putting hospitals under severe strain, but the government is hoping plans to ramp-up the sluggish vaccination programme will soon provide some relief.