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Rome, April 27, 2020
The coronavirus pandemic has claimed 26,644 lives so far in locked-down Italy, bringing the total number of infections, fatalities and recoveries to 197,675 as of Sunday, according to latest data released by the country's Civil Protection Department.
A total of 260 people died from the disease caused by the coronavirus in the last 24 hours, the lowest one-day death toll since March 15, Xinhua news agency reported.
The number of new cases also fell with 2,324 reported over the last 24 hours, 33 fewer than on Saturday. The figure is the lowest in six days.
The number of COVID-19 patients in intensive care units (ICUs) continued to decline, a trend that started three weeks ago. On Sunday, 2,009 patients were in ICUs, down from 2,102 a day earlier.
The number of patients recovering at home -- the mildest of three categories of infected individuals -- was 82,722 while those recovering in hospitals with symptoms totaled 21,372. The figures were 82,212 and 21,533 respectively a day earlier.
Italy entered into a national lockdown on March 10 to contain the pandemic. The lockdown, which is expected to last until May 3, will be followed by a so-called "Phase Two", which involves "the gradual resumption of social, economic and productive activities," the Italian government has explained.
Italy's Ministry of Education said Sunday that schools in the country would remain closed until September, even as the latest data on the spread of the coronavirus pandemic started to show positive signs.
When the national lockdown was imposed on March 10, schools and universities were closed and switched to online class schedules.
Later on Sunday evening, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said that beginning on May 4, the manufacturing, construction, and wholesale sectors can go back to work. They will be followed by retailers, museums, galleries, and libraries on May 18 and by bars, restaurants, hairdressers and beauty salons on June 1.
Also beginning on May 4, people will be allowed to visit their relatives as long as they wear masks; parks and public gardens will reopen, and people will be able to go jogging or bike riding further than 200 meters from their homes, Conte said in a nationally televised speech.
Conte made the remarks ahead of the end of the national lockdown on May 3, which is to be followed by what he called Phase Two.
Funerals will be allowed but with a maximum of 15 participants as long as the social distancing requirements are fulfilled.
All businesses will have to follow rigorous workplace safety protocols.
Conte said the government has fixed the price of surgical masks at 50 eurocents each to prevent speculation, and promised "massive support" measures for businesses and the tourism sector in order to reopen the economy during Phase Two.
"If you love Italy, maintain your inter-personal safety distance to keep the new coronavirus pandemic at bay," Conte said.
"We are about to embark on the phase of living with the virus, and we must be aware that the curve of the contagion could go back up in some parts of the country," Conte said.
"The risk is there, and we must take it on, methodically and rigorously," he said. "This is why during Phase Two it will be even more important to maintain the inter-personal safety distance of at least one meter."
"Responsible behavior on the part of each one of us will be essential: if you love Italy, you must avoid the risk of spreading the contagion," Conte said.
"If we don't respect the distance the curve will go back up and it could go out of control, our deaths will increase, and at that point the damage to our economy could become irreversible," the prime minister warned.
"Our objective is not to have more people on welfare but more people with jobs," Conte added.