Italy plans to ease lockdown from May 4th

Two tourists from Argentina wearing respiratory masks walk while holding a tourist map in Piazza Duomo in Milan, on March 5. 2020. - Italy closed all schools and universities until March 15 to help combat the spread of the novel coronavirus crisis. The government decision was announced moments after health officials said the death toll from COVID-19 had jumped to 107 and the number of cases had passed 3,000. (Photo by Piero CRUCIATTI / AFP) (Photo by PIERO CRUCIATTI/AFP via Getty Images)
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Italy, the first European country to be hard-hit by the coronavirus, will allow some businesses to reopen as soon as this week while aiming to reopen manufacturing and construction from May 4, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said.

Conte gave the most detailed outline yet of plans to reopen the economy, in a newspaper interview published on Sunday ahead of the government’s roadmap out of lockdown, which he said would be released no later than early this week, according to Reuters.

Italy, hit hard by the virus weeks before other major Western countries, has been forced to serve as a model for how to fight it. It is being closely watched around the world as it takes its early steps to chart a path out of a strict lockdown it imposed in early March.

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Conte described a phased process that would see much of manufacturing restarted in early May, although businesses frequented by the general public such as bars and restaurants would have to wait a bit longer. Schools would remain shut until September.

“We are working in these hours to allow the reopening of a good part of businesses from manufacturing to construction for May 4,” Conte told Italian daily La Repubblica.

Exporting companies need to resume activity sooner to reduce the risk of being cut out of the production chain and losing business, he said.

“We can’t prolong any further this lockdown… we would risk seriously undermining the socio-economic fabric of the country,” Conte said.

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Conte reiterated that any restart would have to be gradual, and said companies would have to introduce strict health safety measures before opening their doors.

Newspapers have said industries where the contagion risk is low, such as manufacturing and wholesale businesses, would be allowed to open on May 4. Retailers could then reopen on May 11 and bars and restaurants on May 18, under tough conditions.

Asked about schools, Conte said the plan was to reopen them in September. But he added studies showed the risk of contagion was very high. Teaching remotely is working well, he said.

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