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Italy minister reveals 'pressure' to lift Serie A shutdown as players prepare to resume training

Players in Italy's Serie A will be allowed to resume individual training regimes from May 4 onwards, the Italian government confirmed on Sunday. 

The league has been suspended since March due to the coronavirus pandemic, with Italy one of the nations hardest hit by the outbreak. 

As of Sunday more than 197,000 cases of the disease have been reported nationwide, with more than 26,000 lives lost. 

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Reported infections have begun to slow in recent weeks, however, due to strict quarantine measures. 

Prime minister Giuseppe Conte as a result is looking to slowly relax restrictive measures, with football one of the areas that will enjoy greater freedom. 

"From May 4 onwards, professional athletes and those of national interest will be able to train while following social distancing rules behind closed doors," Conte signalled to a press conference held on Sunday. 

This initial phase of individual training is expected to last two weeks, with group training sessions planned to begin from May 18. 

As of yet, there is no confirmation as to when the Serie A season will be able to resume competitive action, although May 31 has been mentioned as a possible return date.

Sports minister Vincenzo Spadafora warned that the easing of measures would depend on safety protocols being respected, while suggesting that there was a certain coercion from those hoping to get the ball rolling again. 

“We’ll resume training for team sports from May 18, but only if the conditions of safety and security can be confirmed over the next few weeks," he said.

“I don’t wish to penalise or slow down the resumption of football, but I have to say we’ll see because there need to be rigid and certain protocols in place on the safety of the athletes,.

“The FIGC (Italian football federation) presented a protocol last night and the scientific committee considered it insufficient, so it needs adjustments. Only from that moment, when the protocol is agreed, can we decide whether or not to restart football.

“Many leagues around Europe have terminated their seasons early, but Serie A is not inclined towards suspending the season or even training. We are receiving very strong pressure to resume.

“We realise that the world of football deserves respect and support, as it is one of the largest economic resources in the country.”

After almost two months of lockdown, Conte is keen to gradually bring Italy back to normality following the horrors of the Covid-19 outbreak.

"We are not yet in a position to restore full freedom of movement, but we are studying a relaxation of the current, strict regime," Conte said in an interview with La Repubblica.

"We will make sure to allow greater freedom of movement while maintaining our guarantee to prevent and contain contagion."

Juventus, who are seeking their ninth straight Scudetto title in 2019-20, led Serie A when the league came to a halt in March. 

The Turin side sit one point ahead of Lazio with 26 games completed, while Inter are a further eight points back albeit with a game in hand.