Italy has taken its biggest step towards a cautious return to post-coronavirus normality, allowing a number of businesses and churches to reopen after more than two months of strict lockdown restrictions.
Restaurants, bars and cafes across the country were permitted on Monday to serve customers again, so long as they adhered to physical distancing rules. Museums, clothing stores, hairdressers, beauticians also opened their doors – but at many shops, customers will have to book ahead of time.
Along with requiring reservations and placing tables one metre (3.3 feet) apart, restaurants have also been asked to keep a log with their clients’ details for a minimum of 14 days to enable contact tracing in case of a coronavirus infection.
Meanwhile, beauticians and hair salon workers must disinfect all tools used at the end of each client session, while staff at clothing shops must sanitise the items on offer.
Worshippers have also been allowed to return to churches, wearing a face mask and obeying the one-metre safety distance.
“I share the joy of those communities who can finally reunite as liturgical assemblies, a sign of hope for all society,” Pope Francis said during his live-streamed prayer service on Sunday.
Gyms, pools, cinemas and theatres are expected to reopen on May 25.
The reopening has long been advocated by regional authorities and business owners struggling to survive during the lockdown enforced to stem the spread of the coronavirus in one of the world’s hardest-hit countries.
To date, Italy has registered some 225,000 confirmed coronavirus cases and more than 30,000 related deaths.
But in recent weeks, the numbers have fallen consistently. Officials on Sunday recorded 675 new infections, down from 875 the day before.
“Going back to normality is a bit like relearning how to walk,” Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte wrote in a letter to the Leggo newspaper.
“One step at a time, with caution and attention, so as to avoid falling and going back. Italy will start running again,” he added.
This week, Conte’s government passed a new decree to allow travel across Italy, as well as to and from other European countries starting on June 3.