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874. The Gray Zone

Working Paper n. 874 - Marzo 2022

Federico Crudu

Department of Economics and Statistics, University of Siena

Roberta Di Stefano

Department of Statistical Sciences, Sapienza University of Roma

Giovanni Mellace

Department of Economics, University of Southern Denmark

Silvia Tiezzi

Department of Economics and Statistics, University of Siena


On March 23, 2020, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Italy declared a nation-wide lockdown. A month earlier, on February 23, the Italian government ordered its military police to seal the borders and declared a Red Zone around 10 municipalities of the province of Lodi and in Vo' Euganeo, a small town in Padua province. On the same day, Confindustria Bergamo, the province's industrial association, posted a video on social media against having a lockdown in the area of Bergamo and was supported by key business leaders and local administrators. Despite having a similar infection rate to the Red Zone municipalities, the government decided not to extend the Red Zone to the municipalities of Bergamo province with high infection rates. Bergamo later became one of the deadliest outbreaks of the first wave of the virus in the Western world. What would have happened had the Red Zone been extended to that area? We use the Synthetic Control Method to estimate the causal effect of (not) declaring a Red Zone in the Bergamo area on daily excess mortality. We find that about two-thirds of the reported deaths could have been avoided had the Italian government declared the area a Red Zone.


COVID-19, causal impact, synthetic control method, Red Zone, Bergamo, non-pharmaceutical interventions.

Jel Codes

C23, I18, O57