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Italians return to work as initial steps to lift lockdown rolled out

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The scenes in Italy yesterday after some of the lockdown measures were lifted

The scenes in Italy yesterday after some of the lockdown measures were lifted

AFP via Getty Images

The scenes in Italy yesterday after some of the lockdown measures were lifted

The scenes in Italy yesterday after some of the lockdown measures were lifted

AFP via Getty Images

The scenes in Italy yesterday after some of the lockdown measures were lifted

The scenes in Italy yesterday after some of the lockdown measures were lifted

AFP via Getty Images

The scenes in Italy yesterday after some of the lockdown measures were lifted

The scenes in Italy yesterday after some of the lockdown measures were lifted

Getty Images

/

The scenes in Italy yesterday after some of the lockdown measures were lifted

Italy - the epicentre of the European coronavirus - has begun easing lockdown restrictions in a bid to restore its economy.

Around 4.5m people were able to return to work after nearly two months at home - the continent's longest lockdown.

Parks and public gardens re-opened while construction work can now resume.

While families can reunite, friends cannot, and shops will not open for another two weeks.

Coronavirus Data Graphs

Schools, cinemas and theatres are also still closed.

On the eve of Italy's first steps towards easing restrictions, the Health Ministry reported 174 deaths in the 24-hour period ending on Sunday evening - the lowest day-to-day number since the national lockdown began on March 10.

Almost 29,000 people have died in the country.

Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said Italy was still in the "full throes of the pandemic".

While millions of people have taken advantage of easing coronavirus lockdowns to enjoy the outdoors, some of the world's most populous countries have reported worrying new peaks in infections.

India, second in population only to China, reported more than 2,600 new infections, its biggest single-day jump yet, while in Russia new cases exceeded 10,000 for the first time.

The United States continues to see tens of thousands of new infections each day, with more than 1,400 additional deaths reported on Saturday. Health experts have warned of a potential second wave of infections unless testing is expanded dramatically.

But pressure to reopen keeps building after the weeks-long shutdown of businesses plunged the global economy into its deepest slump since the 1930s and wiped out millions of jobs.

President Donald Trump has acknowledged some Americans are worried about getting ill while others are concerned about losing jobs.

Though the administration's handling of the pandemic has come under criticism, the president defended the response and said the nation was ready to begin reopening.

"We have to get it back open safely but as quickly as possible," Mr Trump said.

New Jersey reopened state parks, though several had to turn people away after reaching a 50% limit in their car parks.

White House coronavirus co-ordinator Deborah Birx expressed concern about protests by armed crowds demanding an end to stay-at-home orders and a full reboot of the economy. Mr Trump has encouraged people to "liberate" their states.

"It's devastatingly worrisome to me personally, because if they go home and infect their grandmother or their grandfather ... they will feel guilty for the rest of our lives," she said. "So we need to protect each other at the same time we're voicing our discontent."

If restrictions are lifted too soon, the virus could come back in "small waves in various places around the country", said Dr Tom Inglesby, director of the Centre for Health Security at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

"Nothing has changed in the underlying dynamics of this virus," he said.

Belfast Telegraph


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