Italy will exit COVID state of emergency on March 31, Draghi says

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People sit at Trinità dei Monti without wearing face masks on the day Italy's government lifts obligation to wear masks outdoor following a decline in coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases, in Rome, Italy, February 11, 2022. REUTERS/Yara Nardi

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ROME, Feb 23 (Reuters) - The Italian government will end the COVID-19 state of emergency on March 31, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi said on Wednesday, promising a gradual return to normal after more than two years of the health crisis.

Coronavirus cases and deaths have receded in recent weeks and the government has come under pressure from businesses and some political parties to roll back the restrictions that have been progressively introduced since early 2020.

"We will continue to closely monitor the pandemic situation, ready to intervene in case of an outbreak. But our goal is to reopen fully, as soon as possible," Draghi said in a speech in the art city of Florence.

The state of emergency, which allows officials to bypass bureaucracy and impose rules via decrees, was established on Jan. 31, 2020. The measure is due to expire at the end of next month and Draghi said it would not be renewed.

The so-called enhanced green health pass, which shows proof of vaccination or recent recovery from COVID and is needed to access many places, will be progressively phased out, starting with outdoor activities, Draghi said.

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Reporting by Angelo Amante; Editing by Crispian Balmer

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