How Italy could ease lockdown measures over the next four weeks

As we wait for the Italian government to make an official announcement about the next stage of lockdown, here's what the local papers predict will change in May.

How Italy could ease lockdown measures over the next four weeks
Italy's government is currently drawing up plans to soften the lockdown rules. Photo: AFP

Italy is set to gradually ease its coronavirus lockdown, the toughest and longest in Europe, over the next four weeks, Italian media reported on Friday – although this was not officially confirmed.

“The next four Mondays will mark the country's reopening” following the lockdown implemented last month to slow the spread of the new coronavirus, the Corriere della Sera daily wrote on Friday.

The Covid-19 pandemic has killed at least 25,500 people in Italy, which has the world's second highest death toll after the US – though this figure is thought to be underestimated.

While Italy is still reporting thousands of new infections daily despite six weeks of lockdown, the rise is continually slowing, according to government data.

READ ALSO: Which Italian regions will be first to beat the coronavirus?

“Everything depends on the infection curve,” Il Corriere wrote, but if it doesn't rise again “factories making agricultural and forestry equipment can reopen on (Monday) April 27”.

It predicts that building sites, as well as the textile and fashion industry, can restart on May 4th, when the current quarantine period ends.

This will be followed a week later by clothing, shoe and other shops, it said.

READ ALSO: Lombardy's governor pushes for Italian businesses to reopen

Finally, bars, restaurants and hairdressers can reopen on May 18, the paper said.

Other Italian media predicted that bars and restaurants would reopen some time “in the second half of May”.

The country's gradual reopening will be accompanied by strict hygiene measures and continued social distancing. Shops with a surface area of 40 square metres or less will be allowed only one customer at a time.

Bars and restaurants will have to keep a distance of one metre between customers who will preferably not be seated in air-conditioned spaces, where viruses spread more easily.

READ ALSO: When will it be possible to travel to Italy again?

The reports have not been officially confirmed.

Government plans for easing the shutdown and implementing “phase two” are set to be announced by the Italian Prime Minister, Giuseppe Conte, in a televised address on Friday or Saturday.

Italy's national lockdown is the longest one currently in force anywhere in the world, after it was the first Western democracy to impose such measures.

Its strict stay-at-home orders – announced on March 9th and repeatedly tightened since – have been replicated by other European nations.

The government ordered all shops except for pharmacies and grocery stores to close on March 12th.

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Covid face mask rule on flights in Europe set to be eased

The mandatory EU-wide mask requirement for air travel is set to be dropped from Monday, May 16th, but airlines may still require passengers to wear masks on some or all flights

Covid face mask rule on flights in Europe set to be eased

Europe-wide facemask rules on flights are set to be ditched as early as next week in light of new recommendations from health and air safety experts.

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) dropped recommendations for mandatory mask-wearing in airports and during flights in updated Covid-19 safety measures for travel issued on Wednesday, May 11th.

The new rules are expected to be rolled out from Monday, May 16th, but airlines may still continue to require the wearing of masks on some or all of flights. And the updated health safety measures still say that wearing a face mask remains one of the best ways to protect against the transmission of the virus.

The joint EASA/ECDC statement reminded travellers that masks may still be required on flights to destinations in certain countries that still require the wearing of masks on public transport and in transport hubs.

It also recommends that vulnerable passengers should continue to wear a face mask regardless of the rules, ideally an FFP2/N95/KN95 type mask which offers a higher level of protection than a standard surgical mask.

“From next week, face masks will no longer need to be mandatory in air travel in all cases, broadly aligning with the changing requirements of national authorities across Europe for public transport,” EASA executive director Patrick Ky said in the statement. 

“For passengers and air crews, this is a big step forward in the normalisation of air travel. Passengers should however behave responsibly and respect the choices of others around them. And a passenger who is coughing and sneezing should strongly consider wearing a face mask, for the reassurance of those seated nearby.”  

ECDC director Andrea Ammon added: “The development and continuous updates to the Aviation Health Safety Protocol in light of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic have given travellers and aviation personnel better knowledge of the risks of transmission of SARS-CoV-2 and its variants. 

“While risks do remain, we have seen that non-pharmaceutical interventions and vaccines have allowed our lives to begin to return to normal. 

“While mandatory mask-wearing in all situations is no longer recommended, it is important to be mindful that together with physical distancing and good hand hygiene it is one of the best methods of reducing transmission. 

“The rules and requirements of departure and destination states should be respected and applied consistently, and travel operators should take care to inform passengers of any required measures in a timely manner.”