Italian PM extends anti-coronavirus lockdown to April 13

Thursday, 2020-04-02 10:23:59
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The empty Ponte Sant'Angelo is seen in Rome, Italy, April 1, 2020. Italy on Tuesday observed a minute of silence for the victims of the coronavirus pandemic as their numbers rose above 12,000. National Institute of Health (ISS) President Silvio Brusaferro said at a press conference earlier in the day that the upward curve of the rate of the pandemic seems to be leveling off. (Photo: Xinhua)
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Italy will remain under a nationwide anti-coronavirus lockdown until April 13, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said in a televised press conference on Wednesday (April 1) evening.

The announcement came just two days before the current lockdown, which started on March 10, was due to end on April 3.

"We have surpassed 13,000 deaths, and this is a wound that pains us especially -- it is a wound that will never heal," Conte said.

"So we are not in a condition to relax our restrictive measures yet ... and this is why I just signed a new decree that extends the current measures to April 13," he continued, adding "we are beginning to see the positive effects" of the lockdown and that relaxing it now would mean that the sacrifices made so far would have been in vain.

"This additional effort will allow us to begin to assess future prospects," Conte noted. "When the (scientific) data consolidate... we will begin to program a gradual loosening of the restrictions."

"I cannot tell you when that will be," Conte admitted.

He explained that once the lockdown is over, there will be a "Phase Two" followed by "Phase Three".

"Phase Two is when we coexist with the virus and can adopt measures that gradually loosen the restrictions," he explained.

"After that we will be in Phase Three, which is when the emergency will be over, and we will resume our working and social lives," Conte said.

"Phase Three is the phase of reconstruction and the relaunch of our social and economic lives," the prime minister said.

Earlier, Conte wrote on Facebook: "this afternoon I spoke on the phone with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen", who said the Commission is set to approve measures including "a EUR100-billion (US$109 billion) instrument to support national measures to combat unemployment" and "allowing more flexibility to Italy and the other (EU member) states in the way they spend European structural funds."

"I hope (these measures) will be included in a wider European strategy (the European Recovery and Reinvestment Plan) ... to withstand the grave emergency we are all facing," Conte wrote, calling for "a strong, cohesive and credible European response to this monumental challenge."