ROME: Italy will ease coronavirus curbs in many areas from Apr 26, the government said on Friday (Apr 16), warning caution was still needed to avoid any reversals in the reopening of many long-shuttered activities.
Restrictions on business and movement have been in place for most of this year in Italy, which has the seventh highest death toll in the world and still reports hundreds of fatalities every day.
Current restrictions were set to expire at the start of May, and no decision had been taken on how to replace them.
Prime Minister Mario Draghi set out a broad timetable for reopening after pressure from parties in his national unity administration, particularly the rightist League.
"The government is taking a reasonable risk based on data that is improving, although not dramatically," Draghi told a news conference.
Last month, with cases and hospitalisations rising, Italy paused the four-tier, colour-coded system it uses to calibrate the restrictions in place in its 20 regions and enforced the tougher red or orange zones nationwide.
From Apr 26, the more lenient yellow and white zones will be reinstated where infection levels are low. In these areas restaurants and bars will be able to serve clients at outside tables and cinemas and theatres will reopen with attendance limits.
"Our idea is to allow open-air swimming pools from May 15 and restart some gym activities on Jun 1," Health Minister Roberto Speranza told reporters.
Currently, three regions are red and 17 are orange, with severe restrictions on business and movement. With the number of new cases gradually declining, many of these hope to become yellow when the colour zone is reinstated.
Draghi said it would be crucial that people strictly respected social distancing rules and wore face masks to move forward with the reopenings.
"This is based on a premise, that people and institutions observe the rules so that this reasonable risk is successful," he said.
Italy reported 429 coronavirus-related deaths on Friday against 380 the day before, the health ministry said, while the daily tally of new infections fell to 15,943 from 16,974.
Italy has registered 116,366 deaths linked to COVID-19 since its outbreak emerged in February last year, the second-highest toll in Europe after Britain and the seventh-highest in the world. The country has reported 3.84 million cases to date.
Patients in hospital with COVID-19 - not including those in intensive care - stood at 24,743 on Friday, down from 25,587 a day earlier.
There were 199 new admissions to intensive care units, decreasing from 211 on Thursday. The total number of intensive care patients fell to 3,366 from a previous 3,417.
Some 327,704 tests for COVID-19 were carried out in the past day, compared with a previous 319,633, the health ministry said.