The Italian government has announced measures to ease the country’s lockdown as the country appears to be regaining control from the coronavirus pandemic.
Italian authorities reported 260 deaths linked to COVID-19 on Sunday, the fewest daily deaths since 14 March, bringing the country’s total to 26,644.
In an evening briefing on Sunday, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte announced that manufacturing and construction companies would be able to resume business from Monday 4 May, with retail trade reopening a fortnight later on 18 May.
Addressing reporters through a video link, Mr Conte said: “From 4 May the entire manufacturing sector will reopen, the entire building sector too and also the entire wholesale sector linked to the manufacture and the building sectors.
“This is a very important passage, but we are doing it with a very articulate and well-structured plan written in this new decree. We are allowing this reopening only under the condition that all companies will be strictly compliant with all security protocols.”
Travel will remain limited to within specific regions and only for work or health reasons, but people will now be allowed to visit close relatives as long as they respect social distancing guidelines and wear a mask.
But those who have a fever over 37.5C (99.5 F) will be obliged to stay at home.
Parties, even among family members, will continue to be prohibited – but people will be allowed to do outdoor exercise a little further from their home in groups not exceeding two adults and two children, and keeping social distancing of one metre.
Indoor sports are to be allowed, as long as participants keep at least two metres apart, and public parks will reopen although the numbers of people inside will be controlled.
Funerals are also going to be allowed in the country, which has seen a high number of deaths over a short period, although they will be limited to 15 of the deceased’s closest relatives.
It is recommended that funerals are celebrated outdoors. Mass is still prohibited.
Mr Conte said bars and restaurants, as well as hairdressers and beauticians, can reopen on 1 June, but schools would remain closed until September.
But the PM warned: “If we don’t respect the distance, if we don’t respect the precautions, the epidemic curve can rise again and spin out of control.
“We will have more of our people dying and at that stage the damages for our economy would be irreversible. Allow me to say that if you love Italy, you keep the distance.”
Analysis by Sky correspondent Sally Lockwood:
Italy’s third lockdown deadline is just a week away. That will take 60 million Italians to nearly eight weeks in lockdown. Only now are they hearing the gradual measures that may offer some return to normality.
We’ve become used to the government loosening lockdown measures incredibly slowly, outlining conditions in great detail, and this time is no different.
Until now it’s been an endless horizon of lockdown and that has perhaps been the hardest thing. The Italian government has been in tough talks this week to determine the best course of action for so-called “Phase 2” of this crisis.
But even after talks lasting throughout the night on Thursday, the announcement expected on Friday took until Sunday evening. That is a clear sign of a government which is taking a very cautious approach to the lifting of lockdown measures.
Italy’s Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio told Sky News life can’t return to normal until a vaccine is found. He also told us it’s too early to predict whether travel will resume by the summer.
Italians are under no illusion that life will return to normal anytime soon. Throughout this crisis I’ve yet to hear one person demand for the lockdown measures to be lifted. People here seem resigned to it, they seem to understand the gravity of what the country’s facing.
The trauma Italy has been through in the last two months means the government is lifting lockdown extremely cautiously. And as tough as it is for Italians, they’ve lived this trauma and understand this is a national necessity.
Few here are demanding normality back, they just want something to aim for. Tonight, they finally have a limited framework to work towards.