IN PHOTOS: How Italians made the most of the start of phase two

As some rules were sligtly relaxed in Italy from the start of this week, Italians started getting back outdoors and back to work. Here's a selection of images showing life around the country under "phase two" of its lockdown.

IN PHOTOS: How Italians made the most of the start of phase two
A bar in Rome reopens, serving pizza and aperitivo to take away. All photos: AFP

Under a new set of rules, now valid from May 4-17th, the ban on outdoor exercise has been lifted and parks were allowed to reopen in most parts of Italy.

People enjoy a park in Rome (despite the overgrown grass) on May 4th. Photo: AFP

On Monday May 4th, many people were able to go for a run or walk outdoors for the first time in almost two months – though team sports remain forbidden.

A boy plays basketball alone in a Rome park on May 4th. Photo: AFP

Residents were for the first time able to go out and enjoy the sights in Italian towns and cities without the usual crowds at this time of year.

People stop for a break on a bike ride in central Rome on May 4th. Photo: AFP

Of course it wasn't quite the same everywhere in the country, as regions enforced their own rules and some cities opted to keep parks and beaches closed.

There were emotional reunions too as people were allowed to visit family members and partners. However, big gatherings – including the traditional Sunday lunch for the entire extended family – are still not allowed.

READ ALSO: Who exactly are you allowed to visit under Italy's 'phase two' lockdown rules?

People in certain industries went back to work this week, and all construction work was allowed to restart.

A wrker marks out his space in front of the Colosseum in Rome. Photo: AFP

Buses and metro trains ran at a reduced capacity, with signs warning people to keep their distance.

There's also a new government requirement to wear masks while travelling on public transport.

A sign on a Rome bus reads “sitting forbidden”. Photo: AFP

Commuters in Milan on May 5th. Photo: AFP

Many people also returned home this week, taking advantage of the lifting of a ban on travel from one region to another in order to return to their families.

Travel to and within the country is still tightly restricted, flights and trains are limited, and many southern regions have enforced a 14-day quarantine rule for those returning from northern Italy.

A passenger walks by Red Cross volunterrs conducting temperature checks at Rome's Fiuimicino airport on May 4th. Photo: AFP

In Milan, a network of temporary bike lanes is being expanded across the city centre in order to help commuters avoid public transport.

Cyclists in Milan on May 5th. Photo: AFP

Restaurants and bars across the country were allowed to sell food and drinks – for takeaway only – this week. 

PHASE TWO EXPLAINED: What's changed in Italy from May 4th?

Previously they had only been allowed to operate a delivery service, and some regions had closed restaurants entirely.

A coffee shop employee prepares a customer's takeout order in Rome on May 4th. Photo: AFP

Gelaterias are also allowed to reopen for takeaway orders. Photo: AFP

Not all shops are yet allowed to reopen, and protests were held in Milan, Venice, and other cities across Italy by shopkeepers and business owners angry about lost income due to the shutdown.

People in St Mark's Square in Venice protest the continued closure of many shops and businesses in Italy as phase two began on May 4th. Photo: AFP

Hairdressers in Venice protest over the fact they're not set to be allowed to reopen until at least June 1st. Photo: AFP



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Italy lifts mask mandate for private sector workers

Masks will no longer be required in the workplace but Italian companies will have the right to impose restrictions for employees deemed "at risk".

Italy lifts mask mandate for private sector workers

Representatives from the Italian Ministry of Labour, Ministry of Health and all major national unions collectively signed off on Thursday a new “shared protocol” (protocollo condiviso) for the implementation of anti-Covid measures in private workplaces. 

Although the full text of the bill will only be made available to the public sometime next week, portions of the document have already been released to the media, thus disclosing the government’s next steps in the fight against the virus.

The most relevant update concerns face masks, which will no longer be mandatory in private workplaces. 

However, the text specifies, FFP2 face masks remain “an important protective item aimed at safeguarding workers’ health”. As such, employers will have the right to autonomously impose the use of face coverings on categories of workers considered “at risk”.

READ ALSO: Italy’s transport mask rule extended to September as Covid rate rises

Notably, face coverings may remain mandatory for those working in “indoor settings shared by multiple employees” or even in “outdoor settings where social distancing may not be practicable”. Individuals with pre-existing medical conditions (soggetti fragili) may also be subject to such rules, which, it is worth reminding, are left to the employer’s discretion. 

Alongside mask-related restrictions, employers will also have the right to have their staff undergo temperature checks prior to entering the workplace. In such cases, anyone with a body temperature higher than 37.5C will be denied access to the workplace and will be asked to temporarily self-isolate pending further indications from their own doctor.

In line with previous measures, companies will be required to continue supplying sanitising products free of charge and regulate access to common areas (canteens, smoking areas, etc.) so as to avoid gatherings.

Additionally, employers will be advised to keep incentivising smart working (lavoro agile), as it has proved to be “a valuable tool to curb infection, especially for at-risk individuals”.

Provided that the country’s infection curve registers no significant changes, the updated protocol will remain in place until October 31st, when it will yet again be reviewed by the relevant governmental and social parties. 

With the latest round of measures, Italy has now scrapped all Covid-related health measures, except the requirement to wear face masks on public transport (though not on planes) and in healthcare settings, and self-isolation provisions for those testing positive. 

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

Italy’s infection curve has been rising significantly since the beginning of June. From June 1st to June 14th, Covid’s R (spreading rate) rate rose back over 1 for the first time since April 8th. Also, from June 17th to June 23rd, the virus’s incidence rate was 504 cases every 100,000 residents, up by 62 per cent on the previous week.

According to Claudio Mastroianni, Professor of Infectious Diseases at Sapienza University of Rome, “with 25 per cent of daily Covid swabs coming back positive and a R rate over 1, the infection curve will likely rise at least until mid-July”.

However, albeit acknowledging the rising number of positive cases, Deputy Health Minister Andrea Costa has so far categorically excluded the possibility of re-introducing lapsed Covid measures, saying that it’ll be a “restriction-free summer”.