Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte offered a hopeful message as the country moved to its final stage in easing lockdown restrictions.
“We deserve to smile, to be cheerful, after weeks of great sacrifice,” he said on Wednesday.
He added that now was the time for the country to enact economic reforms.
With more than 33,600 fatalities and almost 234,000 cases since the coronavirus outbreak began, Italy has been one of the hardest-hit countries.
Only the US and the UK have recorded higher death tolls.
Mr Conte’s comments came the same day as the country entered its final phase in easing lockdown restrictions, allowing domestic travel between regions and opening its international borders.
“This crisis must be an opportunity to overcome structural problems and redesign the country,” Mr Conte said. “We have to deal with the economic and social emergency.”
The prime minister said the government was working to speed up social payments and pledged “a serious tax reform”.
But he also continued to urge caution amid the pandemic, noting that “the only effective measures [against the virus] are physical distancing and the use, if necessary, of masks. Abandoning these precautions is seriously thoughtless.”
On the eve of the lifting of restrictions, Italy’s President Sergio Mattarella had also warned that the threat posed by coronavirus had not ended.
“The crisis is not over and institutions and citizens alike will still have to face its consequences and trauma,” he said.