Italy's government is preparing to greenlight the reopening of bars, restaurants, hair salons and beaches two weeks ahead of schedule after encouraging statistics emerged regarding the Covid-19 crisis.
In the last few days, new cases for the entire country have fallen below the 'psychological threshold' of 1,000 a day, with daily deaths under 200.
While the country mandated a partial softening of lockdown measures last week, and had slated the reopening of regular retail from 18 May, bars, restaurants and hair and beauty salons were initially told they would have to wait until 1 June to offer full services.
However, late on 11 May, the government revealed that Italy's 20 regions would now be given autonomy to open 'everything else' from next Monday as well.
'We said this all along - that if the contagion data was reassuring, we would bring forward the reopening schedule. Italy's regions will now receive an outline of how to proceed with the relaunch of bars, restaurants, hairdresses and beauticians from 18 May,' said foreign minister Luigi di Maio on Twitter.
Francesco Boccia, minister of regional affairs, added: 'It will be each region's responsibility on what to reopen in line with the pandemic data. If numbers go down, they can relax the lockdown more fully. If numbers rise, they will be required to hold back.' He added: 'Unfortunately, new cases are bound to emerge particularly in workplaces, now that we are returning to normality.'
However, Covid-19 precautions will still be in place. In the next few days, the government will issue further guidelines on how to maintain social distancing on premises and in public places, with strict hygiene regimes being drawn up. Masks are currently mandatory in workplaces.
Hotels are also spring cleaning after the regions were charged with overseeing an exit plan for tourism in the coming weeks. In the Veneto region, the hospitality sector was already permitted to return to work from 11 May, and hotels in the northeastern region - home to Venice - are betting on local tourism and work travel to kick-start business.
Emilia-Romagna, home to cities including Parma, Bologna, Modena and Rimini, and Liguria, home to Genova and the Cinque Terre, said they would seek to open beaches again from next Monday.
F&B operators, who have been amongst the hardest hit by the crisis, are still waiting to find out the specific rules that will define on-site dining and drinking, seen as one of the most delicate operations post-lockdown.
The government is in talks to resolve social distancing quandaries by relaxing outdoor space rules for restaurants, and waiving council fees on pavement occupancy. However, according to Unimpresa, as many as 30% of F&B operators will not reopen at all after seeing their businesses collapse during the pandemic.