Italy has taken another major step in its emergence from one of the world's strictest coronavirus lockdowns. In a decree issued early Saturday, the Italian government laid out its timeline for lifting restrictions on domestic and foreign travel.
Come Monday, people will be allowed to move freely within their own region, and on June 3, officials expect to lift their blanket ban on travel to and from the country. The decision, which follows a meeting of the prime minister's cabinet Friday, opens a door to foreign visitors and tourists that has been closed since the implementation of rigorous travel restrictions in mid-March, at the height of the country's desperate battle with the coronavirus.
Italy has lost more than 31,600 people to the virus, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University — the third-highest death toll in the world, behind only the U.S. and the United Kingdom. At the apparent peak of its outbreak, the country's hardest-hit cities — such as Bergamo, in the north — saw their medical centers overwhelmed and their local papers bloated with obituary sections that extended for pages.
But lately the country has had cause for hope. Italy has reported a general decline in its tally of new confirmed cases each day over the past several weeks, from totals numbering in the thousands to those in the hundreds.
Officials began easing lockdown measures earlier this month, when parks and factories were allowed to reopen and millions of people across the country returned to work. On Monday, the list of businesses allowed to reopen expands considerably, with shops and restaurants included.
The Vatican also expects to reopen its doors to the public Monday for Mass, with visitors expected to get their temperature checked before they are admitted.
Elsewhere in Europe, officials are eyeing reopening schedules of their own. Just across the Ionian Sea, Greece opened up its beaches Saturday to visitors who were required to abide by social distancing — while the U.K., which surpassed Italy with the deadliest outbreak in Europe earlier this month, has laid out its plans for the next stage of its coronavirus response.