People applaud during a flash-mob to greet the beginning of phase 2 of the lockdown in Rome
People applaud during a flash-mob to greet the beginning of phase 2 of the lockdown in Rome
PIC: AFP

A gradual reopening of activities will begin in Italy from Monday, after residents spent a number of weeks in confinement due to the coronavirus pandemic, while churches in Germany resumed prayer services on Sunday.

In Italy, which has been one of the worst affected countries in the world, residents on Sunday spent their final weekend in strict lockdown, reports Efe news.

As of Sunday, Italy accounted for 209,328 COVID-19 cases, with the second highest death toll in the world at 28,710.

The rate of fresh infections and hospitalisations has been decreasing in recent weeks, which has led the government to announce a partial reactivation of the economy from next week.

Throughout last week, public transport has been adapted in cities such as Rome, with markings on seats on the metro and buses to prevent overcrowding.

Meanwhile in Germany, also one of the worst-hit countries in Europe, churches opened for Sunday services for the first time since the COVID-19 lockdown began on March 22, the BBC reported.

Last week, German authorities said playgrounds and cultural institutions such as museums and zoos would be given the green light to re-open.

But Chancellor Angela Merkel has said that the federal and state governments will not make a decision on the hospitality industry at their next meeting on May 6, but instead focus on further relaxing the rules for schools, childcare centres and sports facilities.

Germany's death toll rose by 74 to 6,649 in figures released on Sunday, while the number of confirmed coronavirus cases increased by 793 to 162,496, data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases showed.

In other parts of Europe, Portugal will begin de-escalation measures from Monday, with small shops and hairdressers due to reopen, although authorities have warned that the risk has not disappeared.

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