Italy starts to reopen as COVID-19 cases begin to decline

KeithBinns/iStockBy DANA SCHAEFFER, ABC News

(ROME) — Italy, a country that has been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, is starting to see a glimmer of hope.

As the number of coronavirus cases begin to decrease, small shops across the country are starting to open their doors. ABC’s Megan Williams lives in Rome and updated Cheri Preston on what has been going on since the last time they spoke.

“Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte announced a while ago that the lockdown would begin to lift on May 4th. But what people are beginning to understand more and more is that it’s not a return to the way things used to be, that the lift of the nationwide lockdown will be very slow and very gradual,” Williams explained.

While the country begins to open up slowly, many Italians understand that their lives will not be the same as it was before the pandemic and complete normalcy is in the rear view mirror. Factories and shops will begin to reopen, while gathering at large events are not even a thought yet.

A whole new way of life — that’s the realization for many. Just like people in many cities across the United States, Italians fill the streets walking and interacting daily with those around them.

“Everybody’s talking about trace and track — which some can be done — over the phone and by notifying people. But they haven’t even come up with an app yet,” Williams said.

Solutions are currently being floated around on ways to treat the virus, though nothing is set in stone. Testing for antibodies, finding a vaccine and an app to track COVID-19 patients, are all viable concepts. Though, due to privacy issues, handing over too much information to tech companies or the government make citizens uneasy.

Italy plans to slowly lift restrictions starting May 4, while some states in the U.S. are lifting restrictions in the next few days.

Williams shared her take on what Europeans think of the U.S. lifting restrictions sooner than them.

“I think people are perplexed in Europe at some of the places in the United States that are lifting the lockdown suddenly, because certainly the Italian experience has shown that the lockdown, especially in northern Italy … did slow the spread of coronavirus and it was essential to saving lives. And I think the message from Europe is to listen to the scientists,” she said.

Clothing stores, book shops, pizzerias and cafes are gradually opening back up in Italy. The difference between before and after the pandemic? Guests can’t go in to buy items, but they can order from the shops.

So what’s something we can all take away from this challenging time, according to Williams?

“I think the silver lining, if we want to put it that way, is increased empathy and a sense of community. I think we understand more and I’m speaking for Italians, but I think this is global as well, that we’re all in this together and we need to help each other,” she said.

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