Easing Italy’s lockdown ‘is a risk we’re taking’: health minister

The Italian government's decision to allow travel between Italy's regions from June 3rd is not without risk as the coronavirus pandemic is still ongoing, Health Minister Roberto Speranza said on Monday.

Easing Italy's lockdown 'is a risk we're taking': health minister
Italy's Health Minister Roberto Speranza. File photo: AFP

“There is a risk and it would be wrong not to admit it,” Speranza told Rai, Italy's national broadcaster.

“It's clear that it is a risk we are taking, because zero risk does not exist at the moment and it will only exist when there is a vaccine.”

“Until then, it is a question of taking calculated risks and of trying to manage a different phase.”

Ahead of the further easing of restrictions on Wednesday,  some of Italy's top health experts have been questioning the accuracy of contagion data being released by regional governments during the reopening phase.

One independent report also warned that three northern regions were “not ready” to safely reopen.
As travel in Europe restarts, some countries, including Switzerland and Greece, are set to ban arrivals from Italy – or from certain Italian regions – amid ongoing concerns about the situation in the country.
However, the Italian government decided on Friday to press ahead with allowing interregional travel.

Speranza said it was “undeniable” that there were “differences in the situation” across the national territory, but “at the moment that the figures tell us that, while it is true that there are quantitative differences, the trend of all the regions is going in the right direction, is going down”.

He added that other countries are “not justified” in barring italians from entering “because the current situation in Italy is of a superior level than the average of other EU countries.”

“We had an extremely difficult emergency phase, and we were the first ones to take very tough decisions.”

Speranza has repeatedly warned that people must not let their guard down yet, and that “social distancing and precautionary measures will be crucial.”

“Woe betide us if we think we've won and everything is over,” he said.

Speranza last week warned that italy “must be ready” for a possible second wave of contagion.


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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].”