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17.06.2020 Europe

Italy, battered by Covid-19, slowly emerges from lockdown despite deaths

By Sabina Castelfranco - RFI
AFP/File
LISTEN JUN 17, 2020
AFP/File

Italy entered Phase 3 of its gradual release from lockdown this week as the number of deaths from coronavirus hit 26 on Monday, the lowest recorded since March 2.

The number of new cases registered was 303 with 256 recorded in the hardest affected region of Lombardy.

As the downward trend for both fatalities and new cases continues, nearly all businesses have gone back to work, operating in a new manner and with restrictions and what authorities insist are necessary precautions still.

After all, Italy was hit hard by coronavirus, with more than 34,000 deaths.

Italians' behavior
When Italy started to come out of its tight lockdown, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said that the months ahead would depend on the behaviour of Italians.

“We take upon ourselves the risk of an opening, but with all precautions,” he said. 

Other authorities also constantly repeat that the virus has not disappeared and with no vaccine yet, Italians need to co-exist with it.

Italians clearly want to return to their past lives, hugging and kissing, but this is still not possible.

Cinemas and theatres have now reopened but there are strict rules for the size of the audiences: no more than 200 people for closed venues and a maximum of 1,000 people for outdoor events. 

That rule also applies to museums and art galleries as well as nightclubs and discos, with many club owners concerned that it will be very difficult for customers to be dancing one meter apart.

Venice's famous Doge's Palace re-opened over the weekend with hundreds lining up in Saint Mark's Square before gaining access.

Online booking is compulsory to visit monuments, museums and galleries but also to go to the gyms and beauty centres. 

Gambling venues have also reopened. The nearly 3-month shutdown cost the sector, which includes 6,000 betting shops, 5,000 arcades and 200 bingo halls more than 2 billion euro. 

Social distancing remains 
Everywhere there are signs reminding people about social distancing and hygiene measures, including hand sanitizing.  Controls are underway to ensure there is no overcrowding anywhere, including out in the open and on beaches.

Wearing a protective mask also remains mandatory when in closed places. Including stores and on public transport. Temperature checks are carried out on people at hairdressers and at the airports and those found with a temperature that is higher than 37.5 Celsius are denied access and must return to their homes.

Soccer matches have resumed in empty stadiums with authorities working on allowing fans back into them in July. Amateur contact sports will be allowed to resume from June 25 but large-scale gatherings of all kinds are still banned.

Schools are expected to reopen in September but there will be changes for students and it is likely that virtual classes will continue to some extent.

Coronavirus border restrictions have been easing across Europe and Italy has reopened its borders. The Italy-Slovenia border came down Monday, reuniting a town divided for months.

 A fence installed by the Slovenians in March separating Nova Gorica from Gorizia was removed this week, finally allowing people to move from one side to the other without restrictions.

There are no limitations for visitors who travel to Italy from European Union countries but quarantine is still a requirement for anyone arriving from outside the EU.

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