(COLOMBO, LANKAPUVATH) – Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said Italy will start lifting its blanket nationwide lockdown on May 4, allowing some key businesses to restart after seven weeks of inactivity.
In a much-awaited news conference on Sunday evening, Conte announced the start of “phase 2” of the coronavirus outbreak, which has so far claimed more than 26,600 victims and infected more than 106,000 people in the country.
Conte warned Italians, however, that relaxing the lockdown will not mean the end of key social distancing rules, which are necessary to avoid a new surge in the contagion curve. People’s movements within regions will still be limited to strict health, emergency and working reasons.
“If you love Italy, please keep the distance,” Conte said, adding that this is the start of a new phase of the pandemic, in which Italians will co-exist with the virus.
The premier added that public parks and gardens will be re-opened and people will be able to visit relatives, if they live in the same region. During family reunions, however, people will have to continue wearing protective masks and will not be able to hold private parties.
Conte stressed that, if people break the rules, the curve of contagion will rise again, risking to go out of control. “Deaths will spike and we’ll have an irreparable damage to our economy,” he said.
Starting on May 4, all productive activities in the manufacturing and the construction sectors will restart. But the firms will have to ensure that all the newly introduced security protocols are met.
Funerals will also be allowed, but will have to be held in the open, with no more than 15 participants.
Conte said that, if all goes well, retail shops will be able to reopen later in May, while restaurants, cafes, coiffeurs and barber shops on June 1. Schools will not reopen until September.
The Italian government is also working on a new package of measures aimed at supporting the country’s fragile economy, headed for an 8% contraction this year.