Italy Will Let Manufacturing, Automotive Sectors Restart First
Maserati Ghibli luxury automobiles travel along the semi-automated production line at Fiat SpA’s Grugliasco factory in Turin, Italy. (Photographer: Alessia Pierdomenico/Bloomberg)

Italy Will Let Manufacturing, Automotive Sectors Restart First

(Bloomberg) --

Companies in Italy’s manufacturing, automotive and construction industries will be the first to restart activities, as the government on May 4 begins gradually lifting a nationwide lockdown, Deputy Health Minister Pierpaolo Sileri said.

Italy, the original European epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic, is past the peak of contagions, but Sileri warned in an interview of the danger of new localized outbreaks as containment measures are relaxed.

“From May 4, the manufacturing, auto, fashion and design sectors -- along with many others including construction -- will reopen, but only if they guarantee social distancing and protection measures,” said Sileri, who tested positive for the virus last month and has since recovered.

“This is not an exit for everything everywhere, it is a gradual process starting with sectors with the lowest risk,” said Sileri, of the anti-establishment Five Star Movement, the biggest party in Giuseppe Conte’s coalition government.

Stores and shopping centers will be allowed to reopen in mid-May, but restaurants, bars, cinemas and theaters will remain closed for longer, as it is more difficult to guarantee social distancing there, the minister said. Schools will not reopen for several months. The government is considering increasing the minimum required distance between individuals in public from one to two meters (3.3 to 6.6 feet), Sileri added.

Hard-Hit Regions

Current containment measures have shuttered all non-essential businesses, banned movement within Italy and virtually confined people to their homes except for buying food, work, health or emergency reasons. The restrictions are weighing on the debt-plagued economy, especially the wealthy northern regions worst-hit by the virus.

“There will certainly be some other outbreaks, so there could be a small local wave if the outbreak is well-controlled or it could become a second wave like the one we saw in Lombardy,” Sileri said in reference to the region around Milan. “But I don’t think there will be one as strong and as violent,” he said, adding that authorities need to be ready to reimpose restrictions if necessary.

Commenting on the future use of serological testing, the minister said, “I had the virus, I did the test, I know I have immunity but nobody knows if this immunity will last, and for how long.”

Even as Italians are granted more freedom of movement beginning in early May, they won’t be allowed to travel from one region to another except for work. Italy is divided into 20 regions, each with its own administration.

“People will be able to exercise -- but not spend 10 hours outside -- they have to be responsible,” Sileri said. Parks will remain closed, he said, citing risk of contagion as people gather.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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