People sing, wave and clap their hands next to a banner during a flash mob in Rome on March 15.


On Sunday night, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte announced the nationwide lockdown that’s been in place for nearly two months would be eased on May 4, as the country enters what he called “Phase Two.”

As part of the loosened restrictions, people will be able to visit their relatives, small funerals can be held, manufacturing and construction can restart, and there will be a fixed price of 50 cents per individual mask to prevent price gouging and encourage mask-wearing.

Still, Conte said full freedom of movement was further away, and some restrictions would remain in place until a vaccine is found.  

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After nearly two months, Italy, one of the hardest-hit countries from the novel coronavirus, will begin to ease its lockdown.

On Sunday night, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte told Italy’s population of 60 million it would enter what he called “Phase Two” of lockdown on May 4.

From next week, people will be able to visit their relatives, small funerals can be held, and manufacturing and construction can restart, as long as workers wear masks and practice social distancing. He added that there will be a fixed price set at 50 cents for selling individual masks to prevent price gouging and encourage mask-wearing, according to The New York Times.

Despite the easing of restrictions, Conte warned the nation: “If you love Italy, keep your distance.” 

“The responsible behavior of each of us will be fundamental: we must never get close, the safe distance must be at least one meter,” he added. 

Italy’s Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte.

Tiziana Fabi / AFP / Getty

As of Sunday evening, Italy has confirmed 197,675 cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, along with 26,644 deaths, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

Since March 10, Italy has been on strict lockdown. It was one of the first nations outside of China to order people to stay home. Citizens have also had to carry a form to provide a reason for moving around, and healthcare workers were told they could not take leave. 

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It’s been a harrowing few months for the country’s health workers, some of whom have been faced with the difficult decision of prioritizing young patients over older ones because of limited equipment. Footage has shown struggling, makeshift ICUs overwhelmed with patients.

But Italy’s strict lockdown has managed to slow the spread of disease over time. Last week, Italy reported its first drop in active cases since the pandemic hit the country. A study conducted by researchers in Italy and Switzerland found that lockdown measures in the country might have prevented 200,000 hospitalizations and reduced coronavirus transmission by 45%. 

Under loosened restrictions, travel will continue to be closely regulated and special forms will still be required.

“There always has to be a reason to move around,” he said.

Schools are closed for the rest of the current academic year and gatherings and parties are also banned.

Conte also set out a timeline for further easing of restrictions. He said on May 18, stores might be able to open, but it wouldn’t be until June 1 that restaurants, cafes, and hairdressers could open. 

Despite the optimistic timeline for slowly reopening the country, Conte stressed that complete freedom of movement for Italian citizens was far still. Conte said that some restrictions would remain in place until a vaccine is discovered. 

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