People during a flash mob in Rome on March 15.
ANDREAS SOLARO/AFP via Getty Images
On Sunday night, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte announced that the nationwide lockdown that had been in place for nearly two months would be eased May 4, with the country entering what he called “Phase Two.”
As part of the loosened restrictions, people will be allowed to visit their relatives, small funerals can be held, manufacturing and construction can restart, and there will be a fixed price of $0.50 per mask to prevent price gouging and encourage mask-wearing.
Still, Conte said full freedom of movement was further away, and some restrictions will most likely remain in place until a vaccine is found.
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After nearly two months, one of the countries hit hardest from the novel coronavirus has plans to begin to ease its lockdown.
On Sunday night, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte told Italy’s population of 60 million that the country would enter what he called “Phase Two” of lockdown on May 4.
Starting next week, people will be allowed to visit their relatives, small funerals can be held, and manufacturing and construction can restart, as long as workers wear masks and practice social distancing. He added that there would be a fixed price set at $0.50 per mask to prevent price gouging and encourage mask-wearing, according to The New York Times.
Despite the easing of restrictions, Conte told the nation: “If you love Italy, keep your distance.”
“The responsible behavior of each of us will be fundamental: We must never get close — the safe distance must be at least 1 meter,” he added.
Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte.
Tiziana Fabi / AFP / Getty
As of Sunday evening, Italy had confirmed 197,675 cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, along with 26,644 deaths, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
Italy has been on strict lockdown since March 10. It was one of the first nations outside China to order people to stay home. Citizens have also had to carry a form to provide a reason for moving around, and healthcare workers were told they could not take leave.
It’s been a harrowing few months for the country’s health workers, some of whom have been faced with the difficult decision of prioritizing young patients over older ones because of limited equipment. Footage has shown struggling, makeshift intensive-care units overwhelmed with patients.
But Italy’s strict lockdown has managed to slow the spread of disease over time. Last week, Italy reported its first drop in active cases since the pandemic hit the country. A study conducted by researchers in Italy and Switzerland found that lockdown measures in the country might have prevented 200,000 hospitalizations and reduced coronavirus transmission by 45%.
Under loosened restrictions, travel will continue to be closely regulated and special forms will still be required.
“There always has to be a reason to move around,” Conte said.
Schools are closed for the rest of the academic year, and gatherings and parties are also banned.
Conte also set out a timeline for further easing of restrictions. He said stores might be able to open May 18, but it wouldn’t be until June 1 that restaurants, cafés, and hairdressers could open.
Despite the optimistic timeline for slowly reopening the country, Conte stressed that complete freedom of movement for Italian citizens was far away. Conte said some restrictions would remain in place until the approval of a vaccine.
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