Coronavirus: Italian PM says country is over worst and cannot afford to wait for vaccine before restarting economy

21 May 2020, 10:34 | Updated: 21 May 2020, 13:51

Italy's prime minister has said the country is over the worst of the global pandemic - and that they cannot afford to wait for a vaccine to kick-start the economy.

Giuseppe Conte told Italian politicians that banks must now move towards "accelerating the procedures to grant state-backed loans" to help get the country's economy going after the coronavirus outbreak.

During the meeting with MPs, Mr Conte said: "We can say that the worst is behind us... we cannot stop to wait for a vaccine, otherwise we would find ourselves with an irreparably compromised society and production system."

He also urged Italians to take their holidays in Italy rather than going overseas - though they must remain vigilant.

"In this phase, more than ever, [you must have] respect for safety distances and where necessary the use of masks remains fundamental," he said. "It is not the time for parties, nightlife, and gatherings."

On Monday, Italy began easing its lockdown rules and allowing shops, bars, cafes and restaurants to reopen, as long as people stay within a two-metre distance of each other.

Museums, beaches and church services have also resumed, including a public mass at the Vatican.

Italy began lifting lockdown on 4 May, when it allowed factories and parks to reopen.

Italy's lockdown began in February, when parts of the worst-affected Lombardy region began quarantining. This expanded to the whole country on 9 March.

The country still has the sixth highest number of cases in the world, with more than 227,000 people reportedly being infected.

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A total of 32,330 people have died after contracting the virus, the third highest total in the world.

The UK currently has the second highest total with more than 35,000 deaths while the US has the most, with more than 93,000 deaths.