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Coronavirus

Italy Slowly Reopens After Pre-Holiday Closures

February 1, 2021

ROME — Much of Italy is gingerly reopening from pre-Christmas coronavirus closures, with the Vatican Museums welcoming a trickle of visitors to the Sistine Chapel and locals ordering their cappuccinos at outdoor tables.

While many European countries remain in hard lockdowns amid surging COVID-19 infections and variants, most Italian regions graduated to the coveted “yellow” category of risk starting Monday. That has allowed museums to reopen, sit-down restaurant and bar service to resume and many high-schoolers to return to class.

In Rome, that meant that the Vatican Museums reopened for the first time in 88 days — it’s longest closure ever. Museum director Barbara Jatta said staff took advantage of the weekslong closure to rearrange some exhibit halls and do maintenance work that would otherwise be difficult to complete with the nearly 7 million visitors who normally flock to see Michelangelo’s “Last Judgment” and Raffael masterpieces each year.

Italy, the onetime European epicenter of the outbreak, is averaging around 12,000-15,000 new confirmed cases and 300-600 COVID-19 deaths each day. But it appears to have avoided the severe post-Christmas surges in Britain and elsewhere thanks to tightened restrictions on travel and socializing over the holiday.

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