Italy Eases Lockdown Restrictions in Most of the Country

Italy eased lockdown restrictions, lifting some curbs that have been weighing on the economy in the region surrounding Milan and across the country as the latest virus resurgence slows.

Health Minister Roberto Speranza will sign a decree later on Friday to shift six regions classified as high-risk “red” areas to medium-risk “orange” status, his office said in a statement.

The development means that from April 12 more retail businesses can open and people will be given more freedom to move around within their municipalities. Bars and restaurants however will remain open only for takeout orders while travel to other regions will still be mostly banned.

Prime Minister Mario Draghi is banking on accelerating a vaccination campaign to allow for an easing of lockdown rules. The premier on Thursday confirmed the government’s latest target of half a million daily Covid-19 vaccinations by the end of the month, even with new restrictions on the AstraZeneca Plc vaccine.

Lombardy Region

Regions benefiting from the easing of restrictions include Lombardy, which surrounds the country’s financial capital Milan; Piedmont, around the northern city of Turin; and the central region of Tuscany, the health ministry said.

Regions kept on high-risk status include Campania and Puglia in the depressed south, and Aosta Valley in the north. The island of Sardinia is also decreed a “red” area.

Italy posted 17,221 new daily coronavirus cases on Thursday, as government experts say the pace of contagion is slowing. The country has recorded more than 3.7 million cases since the start of the pandemic.

Draghi also said Thursday that his administration’s next decree for further stimulus measures, involving a request to widen the budget deficit, will probably be greater than the previous amount. The prime minister has already secured approval for a 32 billion-euro ($38 billion) package originally requested by his predecessor Giuseppe Conte.

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