Italy begins to emerge from world's longest lockdown

Published May 4, 2020, 5:56 PM

by manilabulletin_admin

By Agence France-Presse

Stir-crazy Italians were free to stroll and visit relatives for the first time in nine weeks on Monday as Europe’s hardest-hit country eased back the world’s longest remaining coronavirus lockdown.

The use of public transport will be discouraged and everyone will have to wear masks in indoor public spaces (AFP / Miguel MEDINA / MANILA BULLETIN)
The use of public transport will be discouraged and everyone will have to wear masks in indoor public spaces (AFP / Miguel MEDINA / MANILA BULLETIN)

More than four million people — an estimated 72 percent of them men — returned to their construction sites and factories as the economically and emotionally shattered country tried to get back to work.

The sounds of banging and drilling echoed across Rome and a group of men drank espresso out of plastic cups in front of the Pantheon, the former Roman temple, as cafes reopened for takeout service.

“We can hear more noise now,” Rome grocery story owner Daniela observed. “It’s better than this frightening silence.”

But bars and even ice cream parlours will remain shut. The use of public transport will be discouraged and everyone will have to wear masks in indoor public spaces.

‘Moment of responsibility’ 

Italy became the first Western democracy to shut down virtually everything in the face of an illness that has now officially killed 28,884 — the most in Europe — and some fear thousands more.

The lives of Italians began closing in around them as it became increasingly apparent that the first batch of infections in provinces around Milan were spiralling out of control.

Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte began by putting a quarter of the population in the northern industrial heartland on lockdown on March 8.

The sudden measure frightened many — fearful of being locked in together with the gathering threat — into fleeing to less affected regions further south.

The danger of the virus spreading with them and incapacitating the south’s less developed health care system forced Conte to announce a nationwide lockdown on March 9.

“Today is our moment of responsibility,” Conte told the nation.

The official death toll was then 724.

More waves of restrictions followed as hundreds began dying each day.

Almost everything except for pharmacies and grocery stores was shuttered across the Mediterranean country of 60 million on March 12.

Conte’s final roll of the dice involved closing all non-essential factories on March 22.

Italy’s highest single toll — 969 — was reported five days later.

 
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