Italy to ease COVID-19 curbs in many regions as of April 26, PM Draghi says

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ROME, April 16 (Reuters/ANSA) – Italy will ease coronavirus restrictions in many areas as of April 26, Prime Minister Mario Draghi said on Friday, slightly bringing forward the easing of restrictions originally set for the start of May.

“The government is taking a reasonable risk based on data that is improving, although not dramatically,” Draghi told a news conference. “This is based on a premise, that people and institutions observe the rules so that this reasonable risk is successful,” he added.

The government is reintroducing moderate-risk yellow zones to the nation’s tiered system of restrictions, but in a ‘reinforced version’ which means restaurants will be able to serve people at tables once again and concerts and sports events will be able to resume as long as they take place in the open air. At the moment Italy only has high-risk red zones or medium-high-risk orange zones, where bars and restaurants can only do takeaways for home deliveries.

High-school students will return 100% to having lessons in class on April 26, except in red zones. At the moment high-school students in red zones are doing lessons via distance learning, along with pupils in the second and third year of middle school. High-school students in the rest of the country are having 50-75% of lessons physically in school and the rest via distance learning. “We have brought the introduction of the yellow zone forward to this month, but with a change with respect to the past, giving precedence to open-air activities, restaurants open for lunch and dinner and all schools reopening in yellow and red zones,” Draghi said.

“It is possible to look to the future with prudent optimism and confidence”. He said a ban on movement between Italy’s region’s would end too. People will be allowed to move between yellow-zone regions while it will be possible to obtain a pass to move between regions of different colours. The premier said that he was confident if would not be necessary to tighten the restrictions again if people respect the rules on physical distancing and wearing facemasks. He said the gradual easing of the restrictions was a way to reach out to the groups worst affected by the measures, such as bar, restaurant and gym owners and shopkeepers, who have staged a series of protests in recent weeks.

“These openings are a response to the distress of some sectors and to young people,” the premier said. “They set the base for the recovery of the economy. “I expect it to bounce back strongly in the coming months and then we will have to get onto a path of growth. “A rebound is certain.It is not certain how strong it will be. “We have to work on the challenge of making sure that, after the recovery of the coming months, we continue to grow and keep the level of employment high after so many years in which the situation was different”.

(Reporting by Angelo Amante, editing by Crispian Balmer)