Italy contemplates extension of blockade to May 3

ROME: The prime minister was reportedly ready on Friday to extend most measures of Italy's one-month shutdown to early May to avoid a second wave.

Italy's main newspapers said Conte will publish a decree on Friday or Saturday that prohibits people from walking or resting in the parks until May 3.

The reported decision followed days of consultations with government scientists and regional leaders.

The death toll in Italy from the new coronavirus officially reached 18,279 since the end of February, the highest in the world.

But the daily increases in new infections have been drastically reduced and Italy is gradually approaching a point where the number of people suffering officially could start to decrease.

The Corriere newspaper said Conte will bow to mounting pressure and allow a small number of companies to reopen when existing restrictions expire on April 13.

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These reportedly include bookstores and stationeries, as well as logging companies and factories that make agricultural machinery.

The government and scientists reportedly see them as companies with the least amount of human interaction.

It will represent a small, cautious, symbolic opening, wrote the Corriere della Serra.

We don't have the conditions to restart now, Conte told union and business leaders during a private video conference on Thursday.

Only grocery stores and pharmacies have been allowed to operate since a widespread shutdown began at the peak of the Mediterranean country's outbreak on March 12.

A study published by the small business lobby Confcooperative said the closings have left more than half of Italy's 1.3 million construction workers and more than a third of 11.4 million service sector employees.

Government scientists have also been pushing for the ban on public meetings to be extended as long as possible as a precautionary measure.

But Conte was reportedly ready to let Italians freely leave their homes for the first time in nearly two months on May 4.

If scientists confirm this, we could start relaxing some measures as early as the end of this month, he told the BBC on Thursday.