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Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte will open Italy’s national borders and allow citizens to move freely within the country starting June 3, a key step in his effort to revive the economy after more than two months of lockdown.
Italians will be allowed full free movement, according to a government decree published in the early hours of Saturday morning. The statement confirmed that some businesses will reopen May 18 and stopped short of allowing social gatherings.
Portugal, Spain and Greece also eased some of their measures earlier, signaling optimism that southern Europe’s scarred economies can start to recover from the Covid-19 crisis.
Conte’s announcement came hours after Italy registered its daily virus-linked death fell to 242 on Friday from 262 a day earlier and the number of confirmed new cases was the lowest in four days. Though responsibility was handed to Italy’s regions, the government can reimpose restrictions, including local lockdowns, to control any new outbreaks.
Conte, who shut down most of the economy in early March to combat the spread of the coronavirus,allowed manufacturers and construction companies to return to full operations early this month, while also giving Italians slightly more liberty, allowing activities like walking, jogging andvisits with family and loved ones.
The administration approved a secondstimulus package worth 55 billion euros ($59.5 billion) on Wednesday in a bid to reduce the economic impact of the pandemic. The plan focuses on liquidity for businesses and aid to families hurt by the lockdown. A 25 billion-euro package was passed in March.
The European Commission forecasts that Italy’s economy will shrink 9.5% this year while Bloomberg Economics sees a 13% contraction. With tax revenue collapsing and a desperate need for stimulus, the country’s mammoth debt will rise to well over 150% of gross domestic product, the commission said.
The Lombardy region around Milan, the area hardest hit by the pandemic, has yet to decide when it will allow shops and restaurants to reopen, as Governor Attilio Fontana awaits more data from experts before taking a final decision, Milan Mayor Giuseppe Sala said Friday.
Portugal, which depends on tourism for about 15% of its economy, plans to reopen beaches on June 6, with distancing rules and limits on crowd sizes, Prime Minister Antonio Costa said Friday in Lisbon. Greece will relax restrictions on domestic travel next week, though ferries can travel only half-full.
Spain decided to move about 70% of the population into the second phase of lockdown easing. Tighter curbs remain in force for Madrid and Barcelona, though shops in the two big cities will no longer be required to give out appointments to customers, Health Minister Salvador Illa said.
In northern Europe, Boris Johnson’s government is locked in an argument with England’s unions over whether to allow primary schools to reopen on June 1. Unions want to prioritize testing before allowing teachers into the classroom, a stance backed by the doctors’ union, which says schools should remain closed until the number of coronavirus cases is lower.
There are more than 238,000 confirmed cases in the U.K., the third-highest in the world after the U.S. and Russia.
— With assistance by Marco Bertacche, Tommaso Ebhardt, and Chiara Vasarri
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