ROME — Italy shipbuilder Fincantieri has reopened its facilities after more than a month of closure due to coronavirus.

The state controlled firm shut down on March 16 after talks with unions as the virus swept through Italy — the first Western country to be hit hard.

Since then, Italy’s death toll has been overtaken by the U.S., but remains the most exposed country in Europe, with more than 25,000 deaths and 187,000 total infections.

As the contagion rate slows however, the government is targeting May 4 as the date to relax rigid lockdown rules for the public. Fincantieri was given the go ahead to restart production on Monday — at a reduced pace.

At the firm’s Riva Trigoso yard in the Liguria region, where 1,800 were employed before lockdown building Italy’s final FREMM frigate and PPA vessels for the Italian navy, just 350 will initially return to work, a spokesman said.

Of that number, 150 will be Fincantieri staff, while the remainder are maintenance, cleaning and security contractors.

A similar policy is being followed at Fincantieri’s Muggiano yard, also in Liguria, where 2,600 are normally employed, and where just 200 staff and 200 contractors have returned to continue work for Italy on a logistics vessel, the Vulcano and a new LHD, the Trieste; as well as a corvette for Qatar.

“We hope to be back to full personnel numbers by the end of May or the start of June,” said the spokesman.

In the meantime, safety precautions will be taken, including staggered entrances to the yards for staff, obligatory masks and gloves at work, temperature checks at entrances to spot fever sufferers and in-house medical staff.

Each staff member will be given a packet of 20 masks per week so they can change them multiple times during each day.

“We are planning buses to get staff to work so they don’t have to use public transport,” said the spokesman.

Similar measures will be taken at Fincantieri’s other yards in Italy, which build cruise ships.

During the shutdown, the firm’s 8,900 staff were kept at home through use of vacation time, furloughs and home working.

By contrast, Italian state defense group Leonardo did not close during the lockdown, although many staff worked from home when possible. A deal was struck with unions to introduce social distancing and cleaning at facilities in Italy, and no staff were furloughed, a spokeswoman said.

Separately, the Italian government has reconfirmed Leonardo CEO Alessandro Profumo in his role after his mandate ended. The government did however appoint a new chairman, Luciano Carta, who moves from his post as director of Italy’s foreign intelligence service.

He replaces Gianni De Gennaro, who was head of the government department overseeing Italy’s foreign and domestic intelligence services between he joined Leonardo in 2013.

Tom Kington is the Italy correspondent for Defense News.

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