Italy eases coronavirus measures, Colosseum reopens
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Italy eases coronavirus measures, Colosseum reopens
Singers and musicians from the Santa Cecilia academy perform on February 1, 2021 at Rome's landmark Colosseum as it reopens amid an easing of coronavirus restrictions, with all but five Italian regions put in the low-risk "yellow" category from today. Vincenzo PINTO / AFP.

by Alvise Armellini

ROME (AFP).- Italy on Monday relaxed coronavirus restrictions in most of its regions, allowing greater freedom to travel and the daytime reopening of bars, restaurants and museums.

The government announced an easing of restrictions on Friday, even after the World Health Organization (WHO) and other experts warned that the move may be premature.

Sixteen regions are now under the lower-risk "yellow" category, while five -- Sicily, Sardinia and Puglia in the south, Umbria in the centre and South Tyrol in the north -- are still "orange."

In Rome, which is in the "yellow" region of Lazio, the Colosseum and other tourist landmarks such as the Pantheon and the Borghese Gallery reopened their doors.

The Vatican also eased coronavirus restrictions, allowing visitors back into the Vatican Museums and the Sistine Chapel after being closed for 88 days -- the longest closure since World War II.

However, museums can stay open in "yellow" regions only during the week.

In "orange" areas, bars and restaurants are limited to takeaway or home delivery service and people cannot leave their towns of residence except for work or urgent needs, and museums remain shut.

Few tourists in Rome

According to farmers' lobby Coldiretti, Monday's reopenings affected nearly 300,000 bars and restaurants, or just over 80 percent of Italy's total.

Silvana Mattu, a restaurant owner in Rome, said the frequent changes in coronavirus rules and lack of tourists had hit her business hard.

"Let's hope ... that we don't go back and forth, back and forth" between lockdowns and reopenings, she told AFP, noting that half of her staff had been furloughed.

"The (city) centre is not doing well because we are used to working only with tourism," Mattu said, adding that her restaurant now relied on office workers.

In Italy, a nationwide curfew remains in place from 10 pm to 5 am, along with social distancing and mask-wearing in public.

The country has been one of the worst-hit by the coronavirus pandemic, with more than 2.5 million infections and around 88,500 deaths from Covid-19. It recorded 11,252 new coronavirus cases and 237 deaths on Sunday.

Health Minister Roberto Speranza said that returning to yellow zones "does not mean that the danger is over".

"We still need the utmost caution if we don't want to reverse the gains made in the past weeks."

© Agence France-Presse

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