The Quirinale Presidential Palace is lit up with the colours of the Italian flag as Italy continues to battle the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Rome, Italy, March 30, 2020. Paolo Giandotti/Pool via REUTERS

Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte plans to extend Italy’s nationwide coronavirus lockdown until May 3, while offering some measures to ease pressure on the country’s fragile economy, according to a draft decree cited by newswire Ansa.

The draft confirms provisions in the current lockdown, which is due to expire on April 13, Ansa said. But some businesses would be allowed to reopen including bookshops and stationery stores, and sellers of baby clothes, as long as health security can be ensured.

Conte is under pressure from businesses, especially in the hard-hit industrial north, to allow normal economic activity to begin again. At the same time, medical and scientific advisers are urging him to keep lockdown rules as tight as possible as long as infection rates remain significant, arguing that relaxation could trigger a new outbreak.

The lockdown is crippling one of the weakest of Europe’s large economies, burdened by high debt and low growth even before the virus hit. Millions of companies and their employees have been affected, with scores of businesses fearing bankruptcy.

The Italian restrictions have kept all non-essential businesses closed since last month, banned movement within the country and confined people to their homes except for work, health or emergency reasons.

Source: Bloomberg, April 10, 2020