The Italian government has revealed a detailed plan to begin lifting the strict coronavirus lockdown measures imposed across the country seven weeks ago.
In a televised address on Sunday, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said that his government would end the restrictions in stages - but warned that a resurgence in infections could see a return to social distancing rules further down the line.
“We all want the country to restart, but the only way to live with the virus in this phase is to not fall ill and social distancing,” said Conte. “This is a very important passage, but we are doing it with a very articulate and well-structured plan.”
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Italy has been hit particularly hard by the coronavirus pandemic, with almost 200,000 confirmed cases and more than 26,600 deaths - almost 22% of all reported fatalities in Europe.
Here are the key dates in the country’s exit plan:
From next Monday, Italians will be allowed to travel around their respective regions, but not to other regions of the country.
According to The Times, visiting family members will almost be permitted, “but not wider social gatherings”.
Parks will reopen, and and takeaway services at bars and restaurants may resume. Construction workers and wholesalers will also be allowed back to work as long as they maintain social distancing.
“This is allowed only on the condition that all these companies will rigorously respect security protocols,” Conte said. “We will be able to intervene when we see critical, localised situations, and we will close the tap.”
Bloomberg reports that authorities will “monitor alert thresholds drawn up with the government’s medical advisers”.
Funerals may also take place with a maximum of 15 mourners, but only close relatives of the deceased can attend and all must wear masks and stay two metres apart from each other.
If all goes well, more retail shops will reopen on Monday 18 May, along with museums and libraries.
Team sport training sessions will also be allowed to resume.
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Bars, restaurants and beauty salons will all be allowed to reopen fully at the start of June, provided social distancing rules are followed. However, Italy’s Health Ministry will be able to order a retightening of the lockdown at any point.
Conte warned: “If we don’t respect the distance, if we don’t respect the precautions, the epidemic curve can rise again and spin out of control.
“We will have more of our people dying and at that stage the damages for our economy would be irreversible. Allow me to say that if you love Italy, you keep the distance.”
The PM said schools would remain closed until September.
Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio told Sky News that life in Italy could not fully return to normal until a vaccine is found.
“He also told us it’s too early to predict whether travel will resume by the summer,” says the news site.
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