ROME (Reuters) - Italy's Serie A clubs will be allowed to start team training from May 18 "with prudence", the government said on Monday in a boost for plans to resume the season.
So far clubs have only been allowed to train on an individual basis and respecting social distancing rules, often with players having half a pitch to themselves.
Serie A has been suspended since March 9 and the government has yet to decide if it will allow the season to be completed but Monday's announcement was a step forward.
The government said its technical-scientific committee had conducted a close examination of the protocol which the Italian football federation (FIGC) plans to implement to ensure training can be conducted safely.
In a joint statement from Health Minister Roberto Speranza and Sports Minister Vincenzo Spadafora, it said the committee had ordered some changes, which were not specified, but had given the green light for group training to restart.
"The committee's indications, which are to be considered stringent and binding, will be sent to the FIGC for the necessary adjustments to the protocol so as to allow the safe resumption of team training from 18 May," it said.
It added that the government's changes "confirm the line of prudence followed so far by the relevant ministries."
Spadafora said two weeks ago that the protocol was insufficient and threw doubt on whether the season would be able to restart.
The FIGC has said that for the start of team training, each club should form a group of players, technical staff, doctors, physiotherapists and other staff who have tested negative for the virus and isolate them in a summer-style training camp.
It said all members of the group should be tested for the coronavirus in the 96 hours before the start of the training camp.
They will also be subject to extensive swab and antibody testing during the camp.
Players who have previously tested positive and since recovered will be undergo additional medical tests to find out if there are underlying health issues or side effects.
There are 12 rounds of matches still to play in Serie A plus a number of games from previous rounds. Title holders Juventus are one point clear of Lazio at the top.
(Writing by Brian Homewood; Editing by Ken Ferris)