Italy spells out new coronavirus rules: No more kissing and over-75s told to stay home

The Italian government has issued a list of new guidelines to help stop the spread of the coronavirus. Here's what you need to know.

Italy spells out new coronavirus rules: No more kissing and over-75s told to stay home
Medical staff outside a special emergency facility set up outside a hspital in Piacenza, Emilia-Romagna. Photo: AFP

More than 3,000 people have now tested positive for the coronavirus in Italy. As the death toll passed 100 on Wednesday, the Italian government published its new emergency decree spelling out measures aimed at halting the spread of the coronavirus, including nationwide school closures.

These numbers are changing constantly: view the latest figures here.

In the decree, the Italian government included recommendations on public behavioural changes, issued by the government's special scientific committee on Coronavirus, which it hopes everyone in the country will follow.

READ ALSO: How safe is it to visit Italy after the coronavirus outbreak?

The guidelines include an end to kissing and hugging your friends, and a recommendation that all over-75s should stay at home.

No more baci e abbracci

The famous Italian habit of kissing and hugging friends and acquaintances (and in some areas, people you've just met) will have to stop for the next month, the committee has decreed. Handshakes are out, too.

Keep your distance

The official advice states that people should avoid crowded places and keep “at least one metre” away from anyone else at all times.

Self-isolate if you have any symptoms

Anyone showing even mild symptoms of potential coronavirus infection is advised to stay at home.

Do not go straight to a hospital or doctor's surgery. In Italy, you can call the government's coronavirus hotline on 1500 for emergency advice in English, Italian or Chinese.

Over-75s should stay at home

The official advise is for all over '75s to stay at home and “avoid social contact”. Anyone over the age of 65 with health problems and people with respiratory conditions have also been advised to stay at home.

Don't share glasses

The guidelines also warn not to drink from the same cups, glasses or bottles as anyone else “especially during sporting events”.

New restrictions on hospital visitors

This month people will no longer be allowed to accompany friends or relatives into the emergency room and there will also be more restirctions on visitors to private clinics and retirement homes.

Sporting events closed to the public

One of the least popular rules, and one which can actually be enforced, is a ban on public attendance at all sporting events.

In the decree released on Wednesday, the government stated that “all sporting events and competitions of all types, whether private or public” can be held “in sports facilities behind closed doors – namely in the open air but without the presence of the public”.

“We have to work for the country by staying within the rules and adopting lifestyles that halt the classic paths of transmission,” stated  Silvio Brusaferro, the president of Italy's higher health institute, on Wednesday.

The warnings are in place for the whole of Italy for the next 30 days, though they will be re-evaluated every 15 days.

These rules are in addition to the basic hygiene advice previously issued by the Italian government.

Civil protection authorities are also setting set up tents in front of some hospitals to make sure suspected coronavirus cases do not come into contact with other patients.

According to the WHO, around 80 percent of people who contract the new coronavirus recover without needing special treatment.

Around one out of every six people who gets COVID-19 becomes seriously ill and develops difficulty breathing.

Only around two percent of cases are fatal. Older people and those with underlying medical problems like high blood pressure, heart problems or diabetes, are more likely to develop serious illness.

Find all The Local's coverage of the coronavirus outbreak in Italy here

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Covid-19: Are Italian live events at risk of being postponed?

As the infection rate rises sharply across the country, Italian virologists are calling for concerts and festivals to be rescheduled.

Covid-19: Are Italian live events at risk of being postponed?

Italy has seen a large increase in the number of Covid-19 cases in recent days, so much so that a number of virologists across the country are now urging the government to postpone major live events in a bid to curb infections. 

According to a new report by Italy’s independent health watchdog, the Gimbe Foundation, 595,349 new cases were recorded in the week from June 29th to July 5th; a worrying 55 percent increase on the previous week. 

In the same time span, the country also registered a 32.8 percent rise in the number of hospitalised patients, which went from 6,035 to 8,003.  

The latest Covid wave, which is being driven by the highly contagious Omicron 5 variant, is a “real cause for concern”, especially in terms of a “potential patient overload”, said Nino Cartabellotta, president of the Gimbe Foundation. 

As Italian cities prepare to host a packed calendar of concerts and festivals this summer, health experts are questioning whether such events should actually take place given the high risk of transmission associated with mass gatherings.

READ ALSO: What tourists in Italy need to know if they get Covid-19

“Rescheduling these types of events would be the best thing to do right now,” said Massimo Ciccozzi, Director of Epidemiology at Campus Bio-Medico University of Rome. 

The summer wave is expected to peak in mid-July but, Ciccozzi warns, the upcoming live events might “delay [the peak] until the end of July or even beyond” and extend the infection curve.

Antonello Maruotti, Professor of Statistics at LUMSA University of Rome, recently shared Ciccozzi’s concerns, saying that live events as big as Maneskin’s scheduled Rome concert are “definitely not a good idea”. 

The Italian rock band are slated to perform at the Circus Maximus on Saturday, July 9th but the expected turnout – over 70,000 fans are set to attend the event – has raised objections from an array of Italian doctors, with some warning that the concert might cause as many as 20,000 new cases.

If it were to materialise, the prospected scenario would significantly aggravate Lazio’s present medical predicament as there are currently over 186,000 Covid cases in the region (nearly 800 patients are receiving treatment in local hospitals). 

Italian rock band Maneskin performing in Turin

Italian rock band Maneskin are expected to perform at the Circus Maximus in Rome on Saturday, July 9th. Photo by Marco BERTORELLO / AFP

But, despite pleas to postpone the event, it is likely that Maneskin’s concert will take place as scheduled.

Alessandro Onorato, Rome’s Tourism Councillor, said that rescheduling is “out of question” and that “all recommendations from the local medical authorities will be adopted” with the help of the event’s organisers and staff on the ground.

At the time of writing, there is also no indication that the Italian government will consider postponing other major live events scheduled to take place in the coming weeks, though the situation is evolving rapidly and a U-turn on previous dispositions can’t be ruled out.

READ ALSO: At a glance: What are the Covid-19 rules in Italy now?

On this note, it is worth mentioning that Italy has now scrapped all of its former Covid measures except the requirement to wear FFP2 face masks on public transport (though not on planes) and in healthcare settings.

The use of face coverings is, however, still recommended in all crowded areas, including outdoors – exactly the point that leading Italian doctors are stressing in the hope that live events will not lead to large-scale infection.

Antonio Magi, President of Rome’s OMCEO (College of Doctors, Surgeons and Dentists), said: “Our advice is to wear FFP2 masks […] in high-risk situations.”

“I hope that young people will heed our recommendations and think about the health risks that their parents or grandparents might be exposed to after the event [they attend].”