Three months ago, as Italy became the world epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic, government officials took increasingly drastic measures to try to contain the virus’s spread — isolating towns, cordoning off regions and finally imposing a strict nationwide lockdown that kept 60 million people largely confined to their homes.
Now, however, Italy on Wednesday is lifting its travel restrictions, allowing residents to move freely between regions and inviting travelers from much of Europe to visit without needing to quarantine.
It is a major milestone for a country that has served as a harbinger of the pandemic’s deadly toll and the draconian lockdowns were to follow around the world, but now hopes to signal that life can return to some semblance of normalcy.
“I’m coming home after three months. I could not wait,” a young woman at Milan’s central train station told HuffPost Italy on Wednesday morning.
As of Tuesday, the total death toll in Italy stood at 33,530, according to the Civil Protection Agency, the third highest in the world after the United States and Britain.
The number of new coronavirus cases and deaths has been falling, however. Tuesday’s death toll was 55, down from 60 on Monday.
Other European nations are similarly loosening restrictions. Germany is also beginning to invite international travelers once again. In France, residents can now move freely throughout much of the country, while cafes in Paris are once again able to serve customers at outdoor tables. In the United Kingdom, the government is allowing people to get together in larger groups, and is planning to allow nonessential businesses to reopen on June 15.
Italy’s turnaround has been particularly dramatic, however. At the virus’s peak in late March, Italy recorded 919 deaths in a single day, a global record at the time. The world was shocked as military vehicles were filmed in the streets of northern Italy, brought in to move dozens of bodies from the city of Bergamo after...