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Italy allows bookstores to reopen as an 'essential good'

Italy is slowly but surely emerging from its coronavirus crisis.

Italy was hit hard and early by the COVID-19 pandemic, counting more than 150,000 cases and 20,000 deaths, namely in its northern region. While pretty much everything remains on lockdown in that area, the south of Italy will soon start letting some services reopen, starting with bookstores, stationary shops, and stores that sell baby clothes and supplies, The Associated Press reports.

Stores and businesses in Lombardy and Piemonte, in the north of Italy, will remain closed until at least May 3. But as long as bookstores maintain strict social distancing and sanitary measures, they can start reopening, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte announced Tuesday. Local leaders are interpreting this new order how they'd see fit: Areas in central Italy have said they'll stay closed for another week, while some regions will only let stores open up two days each week.

The selective reopenings are mostly meant to let parents outfit their growing babies and allow students to get new supplies they need. But Italian Culture Minister Dario Franceschini also argued they had a deeper meaning: "It's not a symbolic gesture, but the recognition that even books are an essential good."