‘Phase two starts now’: Italy’s PM unveils plan for easing lockdown

Italy’s Prime Minister on Sunday announced eased restrictions from May 4th, almost two months after the country went into lockdown in response to the Covid-19 outbreak.

'Phase two starts now': Italy's PM unveils plan for easing lockdown
Photos: AFP

“Phase two starts now,” Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said during the eagerly awaited TV announcement on Sunday night

“Now is the time to coexist with the virus.”

“It’s fundamental for each and every one of us to be responsible, we must never approach each other, the safety distance must be at least one metre.”

Conte's government has decided to gradually loosen the national confinement measures, on May 4th and May 18th.

“We’re going to ease the lockdown from May 4th but there is a system in place which integrates the regions,” he said.

Each region “will have to inform the health ministry on the progress of the epidemiological curve and on the success of the measures.”

The central government’s measures are also subject to be approved and implemented by regional authorities.

Here are the main points of Italy’s next set of lockdown restrictions:

Visiting relatives close by is allowed

From May 4th, Italians can visit relatives as long as they take precautions and under no condition should there be large gatherings or parties, Italy’s PM announced.

It will be possible to move from one municipality to another but the ban on travel between different regions of Italy continues, except for proven work matters, health reasons and extraordinary circumstances.

Fixed price for masks

“On May 4th, the price for masks will be reduced and fixed at €0.50,” Conte announced.

“VAT on masks will be scrapped in a forthcoming decree.”

Outdoor exercise allowed

From May 4th, people in Italy will be able to exercise outdoors without restrictions or police checks (at any distance from home) as long as they follow social distancing of at least one metre.

Takeaway from restaurants now allowed

“From May 4th, we will give the go-ahead for take-away at restaurants,” Italy’s PM explained.

“We must go in one at a time and the food has to be consumed at home”.

“Businesses concerned are allowed to reopen under the assumption of compliance with the security protocols.

“There will also be safety measures for the transport companies.”

Funerals are now allowed

Conte also gave the green light for funerals to have up to 15 people attending, but they can only be close relatives and all of them must wear masks and maintain social distancing. No other ceremonies or gatherings are permitted.

Masks must be worn on public transport

The loosening of Italy’s lockdown goes hand in hand with the adoption of strict safety measures, especially in terms of the mandatory use of face masks on all public transport, Conte confirmed on Sunday’s TV announcement.

Face masks or other cloths or scarves must be worn over the nose and mouth and may also be made of fabric.

Anyone with a temperature must stay at home by law

Everyone with a fever of 37 degrees or more must stay at home, Italy’s government has decided, whereas before it was a recommendation and not a legal obligation.

Restricted rush hour numbers on public transport

Buses, metro services and other public transport in Italy will have a maximum number of passengers set during peak traffic times to respect the distance of one metre between people.

There will also be markers added to seats to indicate those that cannot be used.  

Shops and cultural sites to open on May 18th

On May 18th, the reopening of all shops as well as “exhibitions, museums and cultural sites will be allowed if May 4th’s loosening of restrictions prove successful. 

Bars, restaurants and hairdressers may open on June 1st

The lockdown will continue for bars, restaurants, hairdressers and beauticians until at least June 1st.

What will come next?

An update is expected in mid-May.

Schools will not reopen until September, Conte said earlier on Sunday.

Hugs and handshakes will still be discouraged and a decision to restart Italy's beloved Serie A football championship has been postponed.

Italy was entering an era “of responsibility and coexistence with the virus”, Conte told the nation in a televised address.

“Before phase three, we need to wait for a vaccination, and for new contagions to reach zero,” he explained. “For now, we need to live with the virus.”
Conte's announcement followed a frantic week of talks with regional and business leaders aimed at deciding how the nationof 60 million will come out of its most traumatic experience since the second world war.

Italy's official coronavirus death toll of 26,664 is Europe's highest, and only second globally to the United States.

But the number of cases has been ebbing and Italy believes its contagion rate – reported at between 0.2 and 0.7 – is low enough below the key threshold of 1.0 to try and get back to work.

In his address, Conte urged caution and unity.

“We can get angry and look for a scapegoat – the government, the press – or we can try to resolve the situation together, working as a team.”

“If the curve rises during phase two, we need to respond rapidly.”

“If we don't respect the rules the curve will rise again, deaths will increase and there will be irreversible damage to our economy.” 

“If you love Italy, keep your distance from others.”

Member comments

  1. Thank you for getting this out so fast. I tried to watch the live announcement but my Italian is not even close to good enough to be able to understand.

  2. When do you think foreigners will be allowed into Italy and under what restrictions? Is June 1st a possibility?

  3. You are doing a fantastic job Clare for those of us who are lingually challenged.. It is evident from the depth and accuracy of your content that much hard work goes into your communications. You are to be commended.

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Covid-19: Are Italian live events at risk of being postponed?

As the infection rate rises sharply across the country, Italian virologists are calling for concerts and festivals to be rescheduled.

Covid-19: Are Italian live events at risk of being postponed?

Italy has seen a large increase in the number of Covid-19 cases in recent days, so much so that a number of virologists across the country are now urging the government to postpone major live events in a bid to curb infections. 

According to a new report by Italy’s independent health watchdog, the Gimbe Foundation, 595,349 new cases were recorded in the week from June 29th to July 5th; a worrying 55 percent increase on the previous week. 

In the same time span, the country also registered a 32.8 percent rise in the number of hospitalised patients, which went from 6,035 to 8,003.  

The latest Covid wave, which is being driven by the highly contagious Omicron 5 variant, is a “real cause for concern”, especially in terms of a “potential patient overload”, said Nino Cartabellotta, president of the Gimbe Foundation. 

As Italian cities prepare to host a packed calendar of concerts and festivals this summer, health experts are questioning whether such events should actually take place given the high risk of transmission associated with mass gatherings.

READ ALSO: What tourists in Italy need to know if they get Covid-19

“Rescheduling these types of events would be the best thing to do right now,” said Massimo Ciccozzi, Director of Epidemiology at Campus Bio-Medico University of Rome. 

The summer wave is expected to peak in mid-July but, Ciccozzi warns, the upcoming live events might “delay [the peak] until the end of July or even beyond” and extend the infection curve.

Antonello Maruotti, Professor of Statistics at LUMSA University of Rome, recently shared Ciccozzi’s concerns, saying that live events as big as Maneskin’s scheduled Rome concert are “definitely not a good idea”. 

The Italian rock band are slated to perform at the Circus Maximus on Saturday, July 9th but the expected turnout – over 70,000 fans are set to attend the event – has raised objections from an array of Italian doctors, with some warning that the concert might cause as many as 20,000 new cases.

If it were to materialise, the prospected scenario would significantly aggravate Lazio’s present medical predicament as there are currently over 186,000 Covid cases in the region (nearly 800 patients are receiving treatment in local hospitals). 

Italian rock band Maneskin performing in Turin

Italian rock band Maneskin are expected to perform at the Circus Maximus in Rome on Saturday, July 9th. Photo by Marco BERTORELLO / AFP

But, despite pleas to postpone the event, it is likely that Maneskin’s concert will take place as scheduled.

Alessandro Onorato, Rome’s Tourism Councillor, said that rescheduling is “out of question” and that “all recommendations from the local medical authorities will be adopted” with the help of the event’s organisers and staff on the ground.

At the time of writing, there is also no indication that the Italian government will consider postponing other major live events scheduled to take place in the coming weeks, though the situation is evolving rapidly and a U-turn on previous dispositions can’t be ruled out.

READ ALSO: At a glance: What are the Covid-19 rules in Italy now?

On this note, it is worth mentioning that Italy has now scrapped all of its former Covid measures except the requirement to wear FFP2 face masks on public transport (though not on planes) and in healthcare settings.

The use of face coverings is, however, still recommended in all crowded areas, including outdoors – exactly the point that leading Italian doctors are stressing in the hope that live events will not lead to large-scale infection.

Antonio Magi, President of Rome’s OMCEO (College of Doctors, Surgeons and Dentists), said: “Our advice is to wear FFP2 masks […] in high-risk situations.”

“I hope that young people will heed our recommendations and think about the health risks that their parents or grandparents might be exposed to after the event [they attend].”