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.
“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.
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.
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.