Italy has followed several other European countries in announcing that it will begin to phase out current coronavirus lockdown measures, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte announced on Sunday.
The process, which begins 4 May, will see the hard-hit country begin to ease measures across sectors, with an aim to open schools in September.
Parks will reopen on 4 May, but social distancing will have to be maintained and gatherings avoided. “If you love Italy, keep your distance,” he warned, adding that the measures would be reconsidered if the level of contagion rises again.
Family visits and gatherings will also be allowed, but in limited numbers and always in keeping with security measures. “Private parties are still forbidden,” he clarified.
Funerals can be attended by a maximum of 15 people “while respecting social distancing and preferably in the open air,” Conte announced.
Bars and restaurants will be allowed to reopen to sell takeaway food. Gatherings in front of such places will remain prohibited.
In addition, “from 4 May, we will reopen the entire manufacturing and construction sector and the wholesale trade in these sectors,” Conte said.
All retail businesses will be allowed to reopen, as well as museums, other cultural venues and libraries.
Bars and catering businesses will be allowed to fully reopen from 1 June, along with beauty and hair salons.
“School is at the centre of our thoughts and will reopen in September,” Conte told Italian daily La Repubblica. “All the scenarios prepared by a committee of experts foresaw a high risk of contagion in the event of the schools reopening” before that date, he added. “It’s our children’s health that is at stake,” he said. He confirmed later on Sunday that “schools would remain closed until the end of the school year.”
Conte also announced that the government would set a maximum price of €0,50 for surgical masks in the short term.
Regarding freedom of movement, which is currently restricted to one’s municipality, no major changes were announced. Only displacements related to work and health are allowed and require a sworn statement.
Italy has been in lockdown since 9 March. With nearly 27,000 deaths, it is the hardest-hit country in Europe.
Belgium also announced a three-phase end of its lockdown on Friday, with the first phase starting on 4 May.