Although lockdown restrictions will largely remain in place, a select amount of workers are set to return to their jobs this week in Spain and Italy

Spain Remains In Lockdown As Coronavirus Infection Rate Slows
Credit: Juan Naharro Gimenez/Getty

Spain and Italy, two European countries that have been particularly hard-hit by the coronavirus pandemic, will begin easing lockdown restrictions this week.

Starting on Monday, some construction and factory employees, who have not been able to work remotely since the nationwide lockdown was implemented last month, will be allowed to return to work in Spain, NPR reported.

New guidelines issued by Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez stipulate that all impacted companies will be required to supply their employees with protective equipment, and ensure that proper social distancing guidelines can be met, according to Newsweek.

“We are still far from victory, from the moment when we will recover normality in our lives,” Sánchez said over the weekend, noting that the decision had been reached after consulting with experts, the BBC reported. “We are all keen to go back out on the streets… but our desire is even greater to win the war and prevent a relapse.”

Despite the lessening of some restrictions, Sánchez added that the county was at least two weeks away from lifting any additional lockdown measures, which could apply to the reopening of bars and schools.

On Monday, Spain’s Ministry of Health reported that there had been 517 reported deaths in the past 24 hours, which was down slightly from the 619 deaths that were reported the previous day, according to the outlet.

To date there have been at least 168,496 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the country, the second-most in the world, and 17,489 deaths, data from Johns Hopkins University shows.

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In Italy, where coronavirus cases have been declining since late March, the government will also allow a small number of businesses to reopen this week.

Although current lockdown restrictions will remain in place for the country as a whole until at least May 3, bookshops, stationers and shops selling children’s clothes will be permitted to open their doors on Tuesday, according to CNBC.

A woman carries her shopping and an Easter egg across Piazza della Rotonda in central Rome, on April 11, 2020 during the country's lockdown aimed at curbing the spread of the COVID-19 infection, caused by the novel coronavirus
The Piazza della Rotonda in Rome

While Italy overtook China in number of deaths related to the virus on March 19, over the weekend the European country was surpassed by the United States, which also has the most coronavirus cases in the world.

Italy reported 431 new deaths on Sunday, the smallest daily increase since March 19, CNBC reported.

As of Monday, there have been at least 156,363 confirmed cases in Italy, the third-most worldwide behind the U.S. and Spain, and 19,899 people have died, according to current data.

As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, PEOPLE is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. Some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, readers are encouraged to use online resources from CDC, WHO, and local public health departments. To help provide doctors and nurses on the front lines with life-saving medical resources, donate to Direct Relief here.