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What are Italy’s new rules on going to bars and restaurants in phase two?

Masks, social distancing, and even a self-certification form could be necessary next time you go out for a meal in Italy. Here's what we know so far.

What are Italy's new rules on going to bars and restaurants in phase two?
Photo: Alberto Pizzoli/AFP

The Italian government said on Monday that bars and restaurants will be allowed to open again from Monday, May 18th – two weeks earlier than was scheduled under the planned gradual easing of rules under lockdown phase two.

CALENDAR: What will Italy reopen first under new lockdown rules?

But will going to your favourite bar for a cappuccino and cornetto ever be quite the same again? Will a meal at the local trattoria still be an enjoyable experience? Many of the rules and restrictions aimed at stopping the spread of coronavirus still remain in place.

Reopenings are subject to approval by authorities in each of the country's 20 regions, and regional variations mean the rules will no doubt differ from one part of Italy to another.

But here's a look at what we can expect to see when we next sit down at our favourite osteria or pizzeria from May 18th.

An official document was released on Tuesday setting out guidelines from the Higher Health Institute (ISS) and Inail, the national workplace accident insurance institute. (You can see the entire document in Italian here.)

READ ALSO: 

The finalised reopening rules will depend on local legislation in each region. But so far, here's what we can expect:

  • Advance reservations will be required to prevent crowds.

  • Masks may need to be worn at the cash register or when in line, and when you go to the bathroom

  • Customers will have to maintain enough distance to avoid transmitting infections – though it's not clear exactly what that distance is, or how this will be enforced.

  • Tables will need to be spaced at least two metres apart (previous reports said it could be as much as four metres), though this is still being debated.

  • Any establishment smaller than 25 square metres will only be able to allow one customer at a time inside.

  • no buffets will be allowed

  • restaurants have to ensure there's adequate ventilation in dining areas

  • In some areas (such as Veneto, which has a more robust track-and trace system), you may need to declare (via a self-certification form) your relationship to any person you're dining with, to help restaurant owners comply with regulations.

Business owners will be expected to enforce these safety measures, and police will be visiting to check the rules are being followed. 

The government can intervene and enforce tougher restrictions if there's an increase in contagion following the loosening of the rules.

You can find all of our reporting on the coronavirus crisis in Italy here.

Restaurant owners in Milan take part in a protest against prolonged restaurant closures on May 6th. Photo: AFP

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COVID-19 RULES

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”.

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