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Italy to ease lockdown on May 4, give free masks

Former partisan Teresa Vergalli, 93, nicknamed Annuska, holds a note reading in Italian "Resistance always, long live Aprile 25", as she poses at her window in Rome, Thursday, April 23, 2020. On April 25 every year Italy celebrates the end of the Nazi occupation during WWII. The date is also the occasion for the members of the National Association of Italian Partisans to celebrate their uprising against the fascist rule of dictator Benito Mussolini, backed up by the Nazis, with marches throughout the country. The COVID-19 outbreak in Italy this year forced the cancellation of all the activities to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Italian Liberation Day. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)

ROME — Italy will start distributing free protective masks to nursing homes, many of which have been devastated by coronavirus infections and deaths.

Domenico Arcuri, the government’s commissioner for the pandemic, says doing so is a “gesture of solidarity and nearness and support to these places ever more at the epicenter of this great crisis.”

Arcuri says free masks also will be distributed to public officials, transport workers and police. Millions of Italians will be allowed to return to workplaces starting on May 4, when lockdown restrictions will be considerably eased.

Italy, with some 26,000 reported deaths, most of them of elderly persons, has Europe’s highest toll from COVID-19. In Lombardy, Italy’s most stricken region, prosecutors are investigating about two dozen homes, including one in Milan where some 200 residents died.