Italy to remain in lockdown until at least May 3

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Rome, Italy – Italy will remain in full lockdown until May 3 to stem the tide of new coronavirus infections, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte announced on Friday.

“If we gave up now, we would put all the positive results achieved so far at stake and restart with a new rise in the death toll,” Conte said.

The country has already spent a month under strict measures limiting the freedom of movement of its citizens.

Since February 20, when coronavirus was first detected in the northern town of Codogno, Italy has recorded the world’s highest death toll.

On Friday, the country’s Civil Protection agency announced that deaths rose by 570 within 24 hours to 18,849. This was an increase of 3.1 percent, the lowest daily growth since the beginning of the outbreak.

The infection rate has slowed since April began and, after weeks struggling with a surge of patients in critical condition, health facilities are experiencing some relief. A week ago, there were 4,068 people being treated in intensive care units. By Friday, that number had dropped to 3,497.

These trends are opening space for speculation about entering into a possible “phase two” – a period during which economic activities could reopen, and citizens regain some limited freedom of movement while learning to live with the virus in their midst.

The news about some regional governments using antibody tests to identify asymptomatic cases has contributed to a cautious but growing enthusiasm.

But Conte dashed such hopes on Friday. “We need to keep our attention threshold high,” he said, making a specific reference to the Easter holiday.

The only few concessions announced regard businesses such as timber companies, bookshops and stores selling children’s supplies, which can reopen from April 14.

Conte did, however, leave some spark of hope, stressing that, if the infection rate allows any further easing before May 3, the government would pursue it.

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