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Coronavirus: European countries further relax restrictions


Italy and Spain are among a number of European countries further easing their coronavirus lockdown restrictions on Monday.

Most businesses in Italy, including bars and hairdressers, are reopening after more than two months of nationwide lockdown measures.

Spain meanwhile has slightly eased restrictions on some of its least affected islands.

The measures follow consistent drops in the number of daily recorded deaths.

On Sunday, Italy recorded the fewest daily deaths since it entered lockdown in March.

It said 145 people had died with the virus in the previous 24 hours. This marked a significant drop from its highest daily death toll, which was more than 900 on 27 March.

In Spain, the daily death toll fell below 100 for the first time since it imposed its lockdown restrictions.

But officials are warning that complacency over the virus could lead to a second wave of infections.

What's happening on Monday?

Restaurants, bars, cafes, hairdressers and shops have been allowed to reopen in Italy, providing social distancing is enforced.

Almost 32,000 people in Italy have died in the pandemic, and the economy is expected to shrink by nearly 10% this year.

Catholic churches are resuming Mass, but there is strict social distancing and worshippers must wear face masks. Other faiths are also being allowed to hold religious services.

But health officials have warned of the continued dangers of large social gatherings.

Pope Francis held a private Mass at St Peter's Basilica in the Vatican, which has been disinfected ahead of its reopening to tourists.

The Mass honoured the late Pope John Paul II, 100 years after his birth in Poland.

There was sorrow but relief too at morning mass in Milan's Santa Maria del Rosario: the first time that people could return to churches in 10 weeks.

They came for comfort and to pray for Italy's recovery. And they abided by strict measures: pews were disinfected before the service; worshippers sat apart; and the priest wore gloves to place the communion wafer in people's hands, not their mouths.

"It was strange to feel the body of Christ on these gloves," said Fr Marco Borghi, "but it's so important for people to be able to get closer to God again at this time".

From restaurants and bars to museums and libraries, to hair salons and beauty parlours, Italy is reopening and emerging from the world's longest national lockdown.

There's a sense of optimism in the streets but also, still, astonishment at what has happened, particularly here in Italy's richest, most advanced region: over 15,000 people killed in Lombardy, almost half of all the Italian deaths.

And the economic pain is intense. One in three businesses here say they won't be reopening today.


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