Coronavirus: Italy to begin phased lifting of lockdown with reopening of some businesses next week

Italy will allow businesses such as factories and construction firms to reopen from next week as it prepares to gradually lift Europe’s longest coronavirus lockdown.

Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte set out the staged removal of restrictions in a televised address to the nation on Sunday night, nearly two months after the first case of Covid-19 was reported in a small town outside Milan.

“We expect a very complex challenge,” Mr Conte said, before urging the public to maintain social distancing. “We will live with the virus and we will have to adopt every precaution possible.”

The easing of restrictions begins on 4 May, when public parks and gardens reopen. People will be able to visit relatives who live in the same region and funerals involving less than 15 people will be permitted.

Factories, construction sites and wholesale supply businesses can resume activity as long as they put safety measures into place aimed at containing Covid-19.

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Two weeks later, on 18 May, retail shops, libraries, museums and art exhibitions can reopen and professional sports teams can resume training.

If all goes well, restaurants, cafes, barber shops and hair salons will be allowed to reopen on 1 June, although takeaway services may be possible earlier.

Mr Conte said any decision on resuming the top-flight Serie A football league would have to be assessed at a later date.

Schools will remain shut, however, until the start of the new academic year in September, leaving families facing childcare problems for months to come.

Any remaining restrictions are likely to remain in place until the discovery of an effective cure, said Mr Conte. Experts believe a vaccine may not become widely available until late 2021.

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