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Covid-19 hotspot Italy rolls out plan for ‘living with the virus’ once peak has passed

Rome is set to cautiously relax some of its lockdown restrictions when the pandemic slows down or stops its spread, while at the same time boosting health services to keep coronavirus at bay.

Italian Health Minister Roberto Speranza has outlined a five-step plan to allow his Covid-stricken country to outlast the fatal disease, which has claimed 15,362 lives to date. “There are difficult months ahead. Our task is to create the conditions to live with the virus,” he was quoted as saying by La Repubblica newspaper.

Italy, the worst-affected country in Europe in terms of Covid-19 deaths, will exit the nationwide crisis “gradually and cautiously,” Speranza told local media. Once it is confirmed that the country is past the peak of the outbreak, the government will invoke “phase two” of the emergency, easing lockdown restrictions but only to an extent.

Some preventive measures, like social distancing and wider use of surgical masks, will remain in place. The government’s ban on people’s mobility and non-essential economic activity is likely to be extended beyond mid-April. “If we’re not rigorous, we risk throwing away all the efforts we’ve made,” Speranza explained to Corriere della Sera daily.

In the meantime, the authorities will beef up the local healthcare system, tailoring it to the task of containing Covid-19. Speranza said the number of hospitals specifically dealing with the virus will be maintained in every region of Italy until a proper vaccine is distributed.

Other hospitals should carry on working as usual because “unfortunately it is not that the coronavirus has made other serious diseases disappear.” Special attention will be given to the correct use of tests revealing new Covid-19 cases.

The move comes after Italy reported the smallest daily rise in the coronavirus death toll this Saturday as well as the first drop in severe cases brought to intensive care. Still, the number of patients remains sizeable, totaling 124,632 people, according to the latest Johns Hopkins figures.


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