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Italy’s 'new normal' begins Monday amid hopes and fears

After two months of one of the world's severest lockdowns, Italians are getting ready to resume "normal" life. 
Venice, Italy, 4 May 2020.
After two months of one of the world's severest lockdowns, Italians are getting ready to resume "normal" life. Venice, Italy, 4 May 2020. REUTERS - MANUEL SILVESTRI

Italians begin their new post-Covid-19 life on 18 May and it will have vastly different rules to those they lived by before the epidemic. After more than two months of one of the world's strictest nationwide lockdowns, the country that has lost nearly 32,000 people to the coronavirus is ready to open up.

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Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte announced the government’s plan going forward in a Saturday evening conference televised to the nation.

He made clear that, although all stores, bars and restaurants, hairdressers and beauty salons across Italy could re-open, this did not rule out the possibility of new closures or lockdowns, should new Covid-19 infections occur.

“We are facing a calculated risk. I have to admit, very clearly, that the curve could go up again," the prime minister said.

“Our principles and values remain the same: first of all, the protection of life and the citizens’ health. These are non-negotiable – but we have to face them in a different way in this second phase. We have to accept that, because otherwise we will never get going again."

Conte said Italians would now be able to move freely within their region of residence and without carrying permission and certified identity documents.

They will be free not only to meet up with relatives but also with friends. There is no limit to the number of friends they can meet, but crowds and parties are to be avoided at all times – both inside and outside private residences.

Churches, museums 

Customers entering stores will have to continue to wear protective masks and gloves, and bars and restaurants will have to drastically reorganise their spaces according to the new distancing directives for public places.

Churches are also resuming their services but only a limited number of faithful will be able to attend. Places of worship will undergo sanitisation every evening.

Museums can also reopen, under similar restrictions.

The prime minister announced another important move: from 25 May, swimming pools, sports centres and gyms will also re-open – but not saunas or Turkish baths.

Cinemas and theatres will re-open from 15 June.

Reopening borders

But the date all Italians were waiting to hear was 3 June, when they will be again be permitted not only to travel between regions – but also abroad.

Most importantly, at this time of economic hardship, 3 June has also been set as the date that tourists will be able to return to Italy.

There will be new rules for those going to beaches and visiting the various sights, but hotels are ready welcome foreigners again.

The tourism sector is hugely important for the survival of the country – and preparations have begun.

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