Emotional young couples were passionately reunited in Italy yesterday, after the country eased its strict close of two months.
Couples in Naples kissed and hugged each other, and millions of Italians were finally allowed to meet friends and family for the first time since March 9.
Italy is entering phase two of its closure this week, after two months of restrictions where the government closed parks and only allowed people to venture within a few hundred yards of their door for essential exercises or shopping.
Italians were questioned, fined, and even imprisoned for being found outside for no valid reason.
However, restrictions began to ease, with the country reporting fewer than 100 deaths a day and millions flocking to meet their loved ones – though many were still wearing face masks.
The country has suffered just under 30,000 deaths, the second most in Europe after the UK caught up on Tuesday.
Despite the joyful scenes this week, a sobering report from Imperial College London has warned that Italy will be hit by an even more deadly second wave of coronavirus because it will make locking easier.
A delighted couple with face mask hug on the street in Naples, Italy yesterday after the closure in the country was relaxed
Despite the instructions to keep wearing masks, this couple couldn’t help but share a kiss when they met in Naples yesterday
There were many spirits and love was in the air as several couples were passionately reunited after seven weeks of incarceration
Researchers modeled how the virus would spread in three scenarios – if the nation remained quarantined or if Italians increased their movements by 20 percent and 40 percent.
Even if Italians go back to just 20 percent of their normal routine, it would cause a wave of deaths larger than the first wave, which has killed 30,000 people to date.
If mobility returns to pre-lock levels by 40 percent, another 23,000 could be killed, the report found.
The researchers admit that their bleak predictions are pessimistic because they don’t consider preventive measures.
But they say their findings emphasize the need for contact tracking apps, social distance, and mandatory masking when the country eases its restrictions.
Italy surpassed China and became the epicenter of the pandemic in early March following an explosion of cases in the Northern Lombardy region.
But the country managed to slow down its spread after it imposed one of the strictest draconian closures on the continent on March 9.
The country has suffered just under 30,000 deaths and now reports fewer than 100 fatalities per day as the outbreak seeps away.
Britain, where restrictions have been more relaxed, has overtaken Italy as the worst-hit country in Europe.
The imperial researchers used mathematical models to simulate the dispersion of COVID-19s over eight weeks in all regions of Italy in the future.
They discovered that if the country were to remain locked, mortality would be constantly reduced.
If 40 percent of the population in Lombardy, the worst-hit region in Italy, returned to normal, deaths (in red) would initially continue to fall before rising sharply within eight weeks
Liguria, in northwestern Italy, has survived the current crisis without reporting more than 100 deaths a day. But it would be bombed with fatalities if the population increased their movements by 40 percent
Piedmont, located next to Milan, and the central region of Tuscany would also experience a sharp increase in the number of COVID-19 deaths if their people return to just 40 percent of their normal routine
The Marche outbreak, even with a 40 percent increase in mobility (pictured left), wouldn’t be as steep because many people have antibodies built from the first wave. But in Veneto, where not many people have built up immunity, there could be thousands of cases within two months
Millions of Italians return to work in factories and construction sites, opening public parks after nearly two months for people to practice. Pictured: People gather in front of St. Mark’s Basilica in central Venice on Monday
St Mark’s Square in Venice was once again full of people, including a gathering of local merchants, weeks after empty Venice became one of the first symbols of the Corona virus crisis in Europe
What would outbreaks look like if Italians increased displacements by 20 percent in the seven worst-hit regions in Italy. Deaths are shown in red, for 20 percent mobility, and blue, if the current lock was left in place
Family reunion: Melia Famoso (right) and her husband Giovanni (left) hug their grandchildren in San Donato Milanese near Milan yesterday for the first time in two months, allowing Italians to revisit their relatives
People wearing masks sit on an underground train in Milan, with a safety distance of 3ft marked on the floor of the wagon
Italy’s new rules for ‘phase two’ of closure
Italy has now started lifting the closure of almost two months.
Previously, Italians were only allowed to venture within a few hundred yards of their door for essential exercises or shopping.
People encountered questions, fines, and even jail terms if found outside for no valid reason.
Restrictions are now starting to ease and Italians are allowed to leave for:
WORK: Production and construction resumed on May 4, bringing an estimated 4.4 million people back to work, but many companies are still closed.
STORES: Most non-essential stores are still closed. However, a small selection, including bookstores and children’s clothing stores, was opened on trial during the closing, and bicycle dealers are expected to be added to that list ‘very soon’.
BARS AND RESTAURANTS: Can now only be opened for collection services.
MEETING FAMILY MEMBERS: People are now allowed to leave their home to “visit family and other loved ones,” but not friends. They will have to wear masks and ‘big family parties’ are not allowed.
TO TRAVEL: People are still not allowed to travel outside the region where they live. There is an exception for students and workers stranded in another region when the closure began if they now want to return home. Regional authorities are responsible for ensuring social distance in public transport.
PARKS AND EXERCISE: Parks have reopened for jogging and sports, although children’s playgrounds are still closed. People are allowed to drive somewhere to exercise there.
UNIVERSITIES: Can hold exams and graduations if social distance is respected. Laboratories can also reopen.
Funerals: Up to 15 mourners can now gather for a funeral, but must wear masks.
But if Italians resumed their normal pre-lockdown routines by 20 percent, a second outbreak would kill 3700 and an additional 5 people, the report found.
If mobility were to increase by 40 percent, the total number of excess deaths would be between 10,000 and 23,000.
The report isn’t clear how the second wave would overshadow the current death toll of 30,000.
MailOnline approached the researchers for clarity.
The scientists say that the reason why deaths would increase so much is caused by a large number of persistent infections in the hardest-hit parts of the country.
If more time is spent under the current lock before the restrictions are relaxed, infections will continue to decrease and the number of deaths will be “significantly lower in both scenarios.”
In the paper, not yet published or researched by other scientists, the researchers said: ‘When simulating future scenarios, we did not consider the impact of social distance measures in public transport and public space, in addition to mandatory use of personal protective equipment (PPE).
‘The cost-benefit ratio between the implementation of new interventions and the relaxation of the current NPIs [restrictions] is unknown and will depend on the effectiveness of this new set of interventions, behavior, adherence to recommendations and proper use of personal protective equipment.
“Since interventions such as extensive testing, contact tracking and social distance will be implemented, our estimates can be considered pessimistic.
On the other hand, simulating a 20 percent and 40 percent mobility increase over the next eight weeks is probably a conservative scenario. Our model uses the official mortality counts to estimate changes in transmission intensity.
‘As more information about new interventions is introduced, we will include it in our modeling framework. ‘
Dr. Thomas House, a reader in mathematical statistics at the University of Manchester, said of the findings, “Italy is the European country that experienced the first wave of COVID-19 cases, and it is therefore important to monitor the situation there closely.
This document quantifies the extent to which non-pharmaceutical interventions have worked, and reflects the uncertainty about what will happen, taking into account multiple scenarios that may apply when they are relaxed.
‘This study applies to the UK, as the authors correctly recommend that the situation be closely monitored as aspects of locking are relaxed, rather than trying to accurately predict the future, but rather current scenarios that can be plausibly realized, depending on how this process actually develops. ‘
It’s because Italians took to the streets again this week as the country eased the longest shutdown in Europe and entered ‘phase two’ of the corona virus crisis.
In Venice, where the empty streets and alleys were an early symbol of the crisis in Europe, St. Mark’s Square was once again full of people yesterday when local merchants gathered in the square.
Trains and platforms were busy again in Milan with more than four million people expected to return to work at factories and construction sites, while others can practice in parks and visit relatives for the first time in weeks.
The Italian government says the regions are responsible for the social distance of public transport, but some photos suggested it was not strictly enforced.
Italy’s move to ‘phase two’ yesterday follows only 174 deaths on Sunday, the lowest since its closure on March 10, although that came after a peak of 474 deaths on Saturday.
The number of cases was 1,389, also the lowest since March 10, bringing the total to 209,328 to 210,717.
The Italian R rate – the number of people infected by each person – has fallen below 1, a threshold widely considered to be critical to controlling the epidemic.
According to health officials, there were as many as 3 at the peak of the Lombardy crisis, which became one of the early virus hotspots in February and March.
Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte announced a staggered reopening yesterday, although some regions are moving at different rates.
National ‘phase two’ rules allow bars and restaurants to resume take-away, while construction sites and factories are allowed to resume production from yesterday.
People are allowed to visit their families, although not their friends, and only in the region where they live.
Masks are mandatory on public transportation, with regional governments responsible for ensuring social distance – and some of them need gloves.
Parks have reopened for jogging and exercise, although no playgrounds, and people must follow the 3ft ‘distance’ guidelines. Meanwhile, meetings of 15 people are now allowed for funerals.