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Rome, May 4, 2020
On the eve of the easing of the eight-week national lockdown, Italy's daily new deaths from COVID-19 dropped to 174, the lowest level since the start of the lockdown on March 10.
Italy is set to ease its lockdown measures beginning on Monday. The new rules will allow Italians to visit family members living in the same region, and bars and restaurants to offer takeaway options instead of delivery only during the lockdown.
The lockdown will be eased in further stages at two-week increments, on May 18 and June 1, provided the data related to the outbreak continue to improve.
In an interview published Sunday in La Stampa, a daily newspaper from Turin, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte warned that Monday's easing did not mean "everyone was free" to do as they pleased. He said that if Italians did not obey the rules they risked reversing the dramatic gains reached so far.
But Conte told La Stampa that if indicators continue to improve he would consider moving up the time table up in parts of the country least hurt by the pandemic. That would include much of central and southern Italy, but would not include Italy's economic capital of Lombardy, the region that includes Milan.
As of Sunday, the coronavirus death toll in Lombardy (14,231) represented nearly half of the total for the country as a whole (28,884). In terms of population, Lombardy accounts for around one in six Italian residents.
Before Sunday, Conte publicly resisted the notion of scaling back the lockdown differently in different parts of the country. In the wake of his remarks to La Stampa, some media predicted political consequences if some parts of the country were allowed to reopen faster than Lombardy and other hard-hit northern parts of the country.
In the wide-ranging interview with La Stampa, Conte said that starting Monday Italy would be prepared to distribute some 12 million protective masks per day, which would be increased to 18 million a day in June and 24 million a day in August.
Conte also said that the country was stockpiling coronavirus test equipment and that next week the country would start a pilot project to test 150,000 people nationally for coronavirus antibodies that could show who has a resistance to the virus, either from being cured of COVID-19 or recovered naturally.
Other data released Sunday reinforced the positive trends indicated by the lowest one-day death toll in nearly eight weeks. The number of recovered totaled 1,740 on Sunday, up from 1,665 a day earlier.
Meanwhile, the numbers in intensive care, hospitalization and recovering at home with symptoms all decreased. Until three weeks ago, all three categories had not decreased on the same day, but this has become commonplace since then.