London, UK - 10 February, 2020 People wear mask for protection. Street style. Stylish woman in black dress, coat and a wide-brimmed hat wears a beige mask; Shutterstock ID 1650347188; Usage (Print, Web, Both): Web; Issue Date: March 31; Comments: WWD

MILAN — On Monday evening, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte announced a new “firepower” decree that would provide immediate cash for 400 billion euros to Italian companies of all sizes, of which 200 billion euros will support exports, defining it as “the most important intervention in the history of the country” in terms of economic aid. The state and the government will act as guarantors for the loans.

In March, the government had allotted to generate another 350 billion euros.

As reported, the government last month allocated 25 billion euros to be channeled to the national health system and to back families and industries and pledged to take action to generate financing for 350 billion euros. A new decree is expected this month. The lockdown in the country has been in place since March 9 and it has been extended to April 13. The government is expected to indicate future developments over the next few days.

As of April 6, in Italy at least 132,547 citizens have been infected, of which 16,523 have died, according to the Civil Protection department. The number of intensive care patients has decreased 2 percent to 3,898. This past weekend saw the lowest number of deaths since March 19.

Meanwhile, more than 50 nonfood retail brands, including OVS and Coin, the Calzedonia SpA Group, Kiko, Douglas, Twinset and Rinascente, among others, as well as associations FederDistribuzione and Confimprese, penned an open letter to the prime minister, the Minister of Economy Roberto Gualtieri and the Minister of Economic Development Stefano Patuanelli with “proposals to tackle the emergency” and to “elaborate ideas to survive” the coronavirus crisis.

The lockdown is becoming “unbearable,” said the signatories, feeling excluded from Italy’s March “Cure Italy” decree. “We are not asking for money to pour down from the sky. We ask for measures” to help tackle the emergency.

Sales in the nonfood retail sector total 110 billion euros, counting one million workers, stated the letter. The sector channels almost 5 billion euros in social security contributions each year, pays more than 20 billion euros in VAT and 15 billion euros in rents.

“We have been considered less impacted by the crisis compared to other categories when in reality we have been more so,” given stores have been shut down.

Warning of a possible permanent closure of companies, the letter urged the government to consider the signatories be considered as much as the pipeline, and listed a number of measures ranging from the freezing of payments “at least until September,” a revision of rents even after the reopening in light of an expected slow recovery of business, a reduction or delay in tax and VAT payments, as well as deductions on investments and marketing expenses.

Matteo Marzotto, president of Dondup, one of the signatories, said the Italian company “is an expression of the pipeline” and deems that “keeping the pipeline closed for a long time is very dangerous.”

Retailers and producers alike are drawing attention to protect the country’s know-how and expertise.

Asked if the signatories have received any feedback, Marzotto said “we know we can rely on the ‘cassa integrazione’ wage support for nine weeks, but we are living day by day. This is an absolute and serious emergency and liquidity is a key priority now. We are waiting to see what the second phase will bring, but we must start producing the fall season, we must be able to reopen the stores and have the possibility to shop.”

“We are in an emergency situation comparable to a war, which must be tackled with extraordinary measures,” said Stefano Beraldo, chief executive officer of OVS SpA. “We can’t allow to disperse value nor for companies to fail because of this crisis.”

Commenting Tuesday on the government’s decree presented the evening before, Beraldo said “it goes in the right direction even if for some companies beyond a certain size, there are four steps” to go through, including SACE, Italy’s Export Credit Agency, the financing bank, and the Ministries of Economic Development and Finances. “The risk is being financed too late.”