From Turin all the way down to Palermo, images of Italians gathering in piazzas, along seafronts and canalsides, and outside bars have sparked anger and concern among regional officials.

Authorities worry that crowds of mostly young people celebrating their freedom from quarantine may bring about another rise in infections of a virus that has already killed more than 32,000 people in Italy.

Speaking to parliament on Thursday evening, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte praised his compatriots for their discipline in the fight against the pandemic, but expressed his concerns of a second outbreak due to irresponsible behaviour.

“It’s not the time for parties, nightlife or gatherings,” Conte said.

“During this phase, more than ever it’s fundamental to respect distances and wear masks, where necessary.”

 In the northern city of Padua, photos of dozens of young people packed together without masks outside a bar angered president of the Veneto region, Luca Zaia.

“In 10 days, I’ll see the infection rates,” he said.

“If they rise, we’ll close bars, restaurants, beaches and we’ll lock ourselves back up again.

“No one wants to ban spritzes but I’m asking that we avoid gatherings and we wear masks until June 2.”

Similar scenes with hundreds of young people have been seen in the Sicilian capital of Palermo, in Turin in the northwest and the Apulian city of Bari, among others.

On the eve of the reopening of restaurants and bars, the mayor of Bergamo, an epicentre of the virus in the northern region of Lombardy, said he had already seen “so many people who are not careful enough”.

“Are hundreds of deaths in our city not enough? Do we want to find ourselves in trouble once again in a month?” Mayor Giorgio Gori wrote Sunday on his Facebook page.

In Lombardy, which has officially recorded 15,729 deaths alone, masks in public are mandatory.

In order to encourage more outside seating, the Italian government has scrapped a tax paid by cafes and restaurants for tables on the street.

The government is also encouraging more police presence at popular nightlife areas around the country, with fines of up to €3000 for those flouting restrictions still in place.

Padua Police Commissioner Isabella Fusiello told Italian daily La Stampa on Thursday that it was not just the responsibility of police to monitor the public’s behaviour.

“Those who run public establishments also have responsibilities,” Fusiello said, adding that bar owners risked having their licences revoked.

Mayor of Bari, Antonio Decaro, echoed this sentiment.

 “It’s unrealistic to think that law enforcement can control every citizen,” Decaro said, suggesting that cafe and bar owners deliver a mask with every drink.

Also on Thursday, Conte announced that Italy would shortly begin testing the planned coronavirus tracing app Immuni.

The app is intended to make it easier for infected people to locate anyone they have come in contact with.

Italy recorded 156 new deaths from coronavirus on Thursday, against 161 the day before, according to the civil protection agency.