Birx says social distancing will continue through the summer
Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said Sunday night the nation would ease the West’s longest lockdown on May 4, gradually reopening parts of the economy — first, construction and manufacturing — while keeping most movement restrictions in place.
In a national address, Conte described a society that will look little like it did two months ago, even as certain basic freedoms return. Starting May 4, people will be able to exercise outdoors — provided they aren’t in groups. They’ll be allowed to move across a region to visit relatives. Parks can reopen, subject to the judgment of local officials.
Museums and retailers will reopen May 18.
Conte noted the possibility of restaurants and bars reopening June 1. In the meantime, restaurants could serve takeaway.
“With this system, we take upon ourselves the risk of an opening, but with all precautions,” Conte said.
Countries around the world are facing perilous questions about how and when to reopen, but in Italy, the calculus is particularly risky because the outbreak is wide and the economic damage is deep. The country has seen the highest death toll in Europe, and it could face the steepest recession.
Italy’s La Repubblica newspaper reported that after eight weeks of lost income during the lockdown, 4 in 10 shops and businesses — from clothing boutiques to gelaterias — might not be able to reopen.
Scientists are worried the virus might bounce back. The country continues to find 2,000 to 3,000 new cases every day — a figure slightly higher than when it instituted the restrictions March 10.
Andrea Crisanti, a virologist at the University of Padua who is advising the Veneto regional government in northern Italy, said he preferred reopening a handful of the country’s 20 regions to see how quickly the virus rebounds and whether officials can contain hot spots.
“It feels to me like it’s crazy,” Crisanti said of reopening.
Conte, on Sunday, said restrictions would be reimposed in areas that saw rising cases or influxes at hospitals.
“We’ll be able to act and close the faucet when dealing with critical situations,” Conte said. “We cannot afford for the pace to get out of control.”