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The use of facial masks will remain mandatory in Italy on public transport, and in several indoor venues until June 15, the health minister mentioned on Thursday, because of the nation’s hardest hit by COVID-19 delayed an end to pandemic restrictions.

Masks will still be mandatory while going to cinemas, theatres, indoor events, and while taking entry into hospitals, Health Minister Roberto Speranza said, adding that the government intends to be careful in easing the remaining measures.

During an event by a medical doctors’ union, Speranza said, “We have made a decision to keep in place for a while, at least until June 15, an element of caution that I believe is necessary.”

The government authorities have earlier made an announcement that health certificates proving vaccination or recent recovery from COVID-19 would no longer be needed to get entry to the vast region of services, including restaurants, gyms as well as public transportation, from May 1.

Italy was the first Western country which was hit by the disease, and it has so far recorded 163,244 deaths, the eighth highest tally in the world.

It saw infections downtrend in the first half of April, but as per a report by an Italian think-tank, Gimbe, COVID-19 cases picked up again in recent days.

Around 84% of Italians have received the recommended two vaccine doses, while over 65% of people have received a third booster shot.

Italy on Tuesday has reported 29,575 COVID-19 related cases, against 24,878 the day before, the health ministry said, while the daily number of deaths has increased to 146 from 93.

Since the outbreak emerged in February 2020, Italy has recorded over 162,927 deaths which were linked to COVID-19. It was the second-highest toll in Europe after Britain and the eighth highest in the world. The country has reported 16.2 million cases to date.

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Italy orders use of face masks mandatory on public places until June 15