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ROME (Reuters) - Face masks will remain compulsory in Italy on public transport and in some indoor venues until June 15, the health minister said on Thursday, as one of the country's hardest hit by COVID delayed an end to pandemic restrictions.
Masks will still be required to access cinemas, theatres, indoor events and to enter hospitals, Health Minister Roberto Speranza said, adding that the government intends to be cautious in lifting the remaining measures.
"We have decided to keep in place for a while, at least until June 15, an element of caution that I believe is necessary," Speranza said at an event organised by a medical doctors' union.
The government had previously announced that health certificates proving vaccination or recent recovery from coronavirus would no longer be needed to gain access to a vast array of services, including restaurants, gyms and public transport, from May 1.
Italy was the first Western nation hit by the disease and it has so far registered 163,244 deaths, the eighth highest tally in the world.
It saw infections decline in the first half of April but according to a report by Italian think-tank Gimbe COVID-19 cases picked up again in recent days.
Some 84% of Italians have received the recommended two vaccine doses, while over 65% of people have received a third booster shot.
(Reporting by Angelo Amante; Editing by Bill Berkrot)