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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Is Italy’s government planning to scrap all Covid measures?

The new Italian government has announced the end of some remaining Covid health measures. Here's a look at what will - and won't - change.

Is Italy’s government planning to scrap all Covid measures?

Few Covid-related restrictions remain in Italy today, six months after the nationwide ‘state of emergency’ ended.

The previous government had kept only a handful of precautionary measures in place – which the new government, led by Giorgia Meloni, must now decide whether or not to keep.

The cabinet is holding a meeting on Monday and will issue a decree this week detailing any changes to the health measures.

Many expect the government to scrap all measures entirely by the end of the year, after Meloni and her party criticised the way Mario Draghi’s administration handled the pandemic throughout its tenure. 

Meloni clearly stated in her first address to parliament last Tuesday that “we will not replicate the model of the previous government” when it comes to managing Covid.

READ ALSO: Five key points from Meloni’s first speech as new Italian PM

While she acknowledged that Italy could be hit by another Covid wave, or another pandemic, she did not say how her government would deal with it.

Meanwhile, new health minister Orazio Schillaci issued a statement on Friday confirming the end of several existing measures, saying he “considers it appropriate to initiate a progressive return to normality in activities and behaviour”.

Workplace ban for unvaccinated medical staff

Schillaci confirmed that the ministry will allow doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals to return to work after being suspended because they refuse to get vaccinated against Covid-19.

Those who refuse vaccination will be “reintegrated” into the workforce before the rule expires at the end of this year, as part of what the minister called a “gradual return to normality”.

They will be allowed to return “in light of the worrying shortage of medical and health personnel” and “considering the trend of Covid infections”, the statement said.

Fines issued to healthcare staff aged over 50 who refused vaccination would also be cancelled, it added.

There were some 1,579 doctors and dentists refusing vaccination at the end of October, representing 0.3 percent of all those registered with Italy’s National Federation of the Orders of Physicians, Surgeons and Dentists (Fnomceo) 

Daily Covid data reports

Schillaci also confirmed in the statement that the health ministry will no longer release daily updates on Covid-19 contagion rates, hospital cases and deaths, saying this would be replaced by a weekly update.

It said it would however make the data available at any time to relevant authorities.

Mask requirement in hospitals to stay?

The requirement to wear face masks in hospitals, care homes and other healthcare facilities expires on Monday, October 31st.

At a meeting on the same day the government is expected to decide whether to extend the measure.

READ ALSO: What can we expect from Italy’s new government?

While the government had looked at scrapping the requirement, it reportedly changed stance at the last minute on Monday after facing heavy criticism from health experts.

Media reports published while the meeting was in progress on Monday said government sources had indicated the measure would in fact be extended.

Confirmation is expected to come later on Monday.

Italy’s face mask rules in care homes and healthcare facilities are up for renewal. Photo by Thierry ZOCCOLAN / AFP

‘Green pass’ health certificate

There is no indication that the new government plans to bring back any requirements to show a ‘green pass’: the digital certificate proving vaccination against or recent recovery from Covid, or a negative test result.

The pass is currently only required for entry to healthcare facilities and care homes, and this is expected to remain the case.

‘Dismantling the measures’

Some of the confirmed changes were strongly criticised by Italy’s most prominent healthcare experts.

Head of the Gimbe association for evidence-based medicine, Nino Cartabellotta, said the focus on cancelling fines for unvaccinated healthcare workers was “irrelevant from a health point of view .. but unscientific and highly diseducative”.

He told news agency Ansa it was “absolutely legitimate” for a new government to discontinue the previous administration’s measures, but that this “must also be used to improve everything that the previous government was unable to do”.

The government should prioritise “more analytical collection of data on hospitalised patients, investments in ventilation systems for enclosed rooms … accelerating coverage with vaccine boosters,” he said.

However, the plan at the moment appeared to be “a mere dismantling of the measures in place,” he said, “in the illusory attempt to consign the pandemic to oblivion, ignoring the recommendations of the international public health authorities”.