ROME (Reuters) – The Italian government will ease anti-COVID restrictions in five regions starting Sunday, including in the country’s richest and most populous region, Lombardy, the Ministry of Health said.
Lombardy, Piemonte and Calabria will be downgraded from red to orange zones, while Sicily and Liguria will drop from the orange to the yellow zone, which has the least restrictions.
Friday’s decision follows a gradual decline in the number of hospitalizations for coronavirus in much of Italy over the past week, with the number of new cases also receding after the spikes seen earlier this month.
Italy introduced a three-tiered zoning system with calibrated curbs three weeks ago, depending on a variety of factors, including the number of infections and hospital occupancy.
Red zone residents are only allowed to leave their homes for work, health or emergencies, while bars, restaurants and most shops have shutters. In the orange zone, people can move freely within their towns and cities, but not elsewhere. Bars and restaurants are closed, but shops can open.
Abruzzo, Campania, Tuscany, Aosta Valley and the province of Bolzano will all remain in the red zone for the time being, while Basilicata, Emilia Romagna, Fruili, Marche, Puglia and Umbria will still be orange.
Italy was the first Western country to be affected by the virus in February, and the outbreak was only brought under control after months of national lockdown. After a summer break, infections rose again in October, forcing new government restrictions.
On Friday, 53,677 people died of the disease in Italy, the second highest number in Europe after Great Britain. It has also recorded about 1,538 million cases.