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Italy is leading Europe in easing lockdown measures aimed at containing the spread of the new coronavirus

Italy is leading Europe in easing lockdown measures aimed at containing the spread of the new coronavirus

Italy is leading Europe in easing lockdown measures aimed at containing the spread of the new coronavirus, almost two months after the epidemic hit the continent. More than 4.4 million Italians went back to work on Monday after seven weeks of extraordinary restrictive measures.

In Italy, Europe's worst-hit country in terms of deaths, almost 30,000 people have died amid more than 210,700 infections, according to the national Civil Protection Agency. The return to work came as Italy tries to cushion the economic impact of the shutdowns. Its economy, the euro zone's third-largest last year, is expected to shrink more than in any year since the global depression of the 1930s. Half of Italy's workforce is receiving state support and the same number told a top pollster that they were afraid of becoming unemployed. The long-awaited phase two includes resuming activities within factories, building sites and wholesale trade. Italians are now also allowed to visit family members and people with whom they have an "established emotional bond" in the same region. Parks are open for walking and running, and people can go for sport activities even far from home. Social gatherings remain banned and it is mandatory to wear a mask on public transportation and in closed public spaces. Restrictions on funerals have been relaxed, with a maximum of 15 mourners allowed to attend, but masses and weddings will have to wait. Bars, hair salons and restaurants will be allowed to reopen only on June 1, if the rate of infection continues to lower.

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