Italy to Reopen Some Businesses as Early as This Week

April 26, 2020Updated: April 26, 2020

MILAN—Italy, the first European country to be ravaged by the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, will allow some businesses to reopen as soon as this week while aiming to reopen manufacturing and construction starting May 4, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said.

Conte gave the most detailed outline yet of plans to reopen the economy, in a newspaper interview published April 26 ahead of the government’s roadmap out of lockdown, which he said would be released no later than early this week.

Italy, which was hit hard by the CCP virus, commonly known as novel coronavirus, for weeks before other major Western countries, has been forced to serve as a model for how to fight it.

It is being closely watched around the world as it takes its early steps to chart a path out of a strict lockdown it imposed in early March.

Residents wait to be given access to shop
Residents wait to be given access to shop in a supermarket in small groups of forty people in the small Italian town of Casalpusterlengo, on Feb. 23, 2020. (Miguel Medina/AFP via Getty Images)

Conte described a phased process that would see much of manufacturing restarted in early May, although businesses frequented by the general public such as bars and restaurants would have to wait a bit longer. Schools would remain shut until September.

“We are working in these hours to allow the reopening of a good part of businesses from manufacturing to construction for May 4,” Conte told Italian daily La Repubblica.

Some businesses deemed “strategic,” including activity that was mainly export-oriented, could reopen this week providing they get the go-ahead from local prefects.

Exporting companies need to resume activity sooner to reduce the risk of being cut out of the production chain and losing business, he said.

“We can’t prolong any further this lockdown… we would risk seriously undermining the socio-economic fabric of the country,” Conte said.

Conte reiterated that any restart would have to be gradual, and said companies would have to introduce strict health safety measures before opening their doors.

A Italian resident wearing a face mask
A resident wearing a face mask exits a shop after buying a newspaper in Treviolo, Italy, on April 9, 2020. (Miguel Medina/AFP via Getty Images)

Newspapers have said industries where the contagion risk is low, such as manufacturing and wholesale businesses, would be allowed to open on May 4. Retailers could then reopen on May 11, and bars and restaurants on May 18, under tough conditions.

The lockdown has put a strain on the euro zone’s third-largest economy, and Italian business leaders have called for the restrictions to be eased to head off economic catastrophe.

Rome has introduced a series of measures including state-backed loans to help businesses stay afloat. But some businessmen have complained about delays in implementing them.

Conte said the government was monitoring banks to make sure state-guaranteed liquidity arrived to companies in need.

He also said the government was working on a series of measures to help industry by cutting bureaucratic red tape.

Asked about schools, Conte said the plan is to reopen them in September. But he added studies showed the risk of contagion was very high. Teaching remotely is working well, he said.

By Stephen Jewkes

Epoch Times staff contributed to this report