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Italy announces plans to lift travel restrictions as infection rate falls

Coronavirus

Empty chairs and tables are lined up outside a restaurant in St. Mark’s Square in Venice, Italy, Monday, March 9, 2020. Italy took a page from China’s playbook Sunday, attempting to lock down 16 million people — more than a quarter of its population — for nearly a month to halt the relentless march of the new coronavirus across Europe. Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte signed a quarantine decree early Sunday for the country’s prosperous north. Areas under lockdown include Milan, Italy’s financial hub and the main city in Lombardy, and Venice, the main city in the neighboring Veneto region. (Anteo Marinoni/LaPresse via AP)

(CBS) — After several months in lockdown, Italy has announced plans to lift its coronavirus travel ban. The country, an epicenter of the pandemic, plans to be mostly reopened within the next few weeks, with strict health guidelines.

The Italian government plans to allow travel to and from the country beginning June 3, according to a new decree signed Saturday by Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte. Citizens will also be able to travel freely within the country starting that same day.

Certain travel may still be limited based on disease risks, which will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. People who have tested positive for COVID-19 will still remain under strict quarantine orders.

The travel ban lifts the day after Italy’s Republic Day, likely preventing mass travel over a long holiday weekend.

Italy’s infection rate has fallen sharply in recent days. Despite calls for a quicker reopening, Conte said a gradual return to normalcy can help prevent a second wave of infections, Reuters reports.

According to the decree, all sectors of the economy still shuttered can reopen in June, as long as proper safety guidelines, social distancing and hygiene rules are adhered to. Health officials plan to closely monitor reopening in order to limit further infections.

The country maintained strict lockdown guidelines until May 4, when it allowed factories and parks to reopen. Shops plan to open May 18, and that same day, people will be able to move freely within their region.

Before coronavirus truly took hold in the United States, Italy had the highest number of COVID-19 infections in the world. It was the first European country to impose nationwide lockdown restrictions and has struggled for months to limit the virus’ spread.

Italy currently has the fifth-highest number of confirmed infections globally with over 233,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases. It has the third-highest death toll, behind the U.S. and the U.K., with over 31,000 confirmed deaths.

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