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Italian region makes face masks compulsory in public at all times

The southern Italian region of Campania has ordered people to wear face masks anytime they're in public, even outdoors, after a rise in new cases of coronavirus.

Italian region makes face masks compulsory in public at all times
Campania is the latest part of Italy to make face masks compulsory in public, even outside. Photo: Carlo Hermann/AFP

Under a new ordinance on Thursday, masks are now compulsory 24 hours a day throughout the region, which includes Italy's third biggest city of Naples. 

The new rule, which will remain in place until at least October 4th, comes in response to a rise in cases and is designed to prevent tougher restrictions becoming necessary. 

“We need to get back to behaving responsibly right away, even more so with the reopening of schools,” said regional governor Vincenzo De Luca.

“If we want to avoid wider closures we need the utmost rigour.”

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Campania recorded 248 new infections on Wednesday, more than any other region in Italy, with 191 in Naples alone.

The region now requires masks regardless of whether you're socially distanced from others, including outside and throughout the day, though there are exceptions for children under 6, people who can't wear a mask for health reasons, and people exercising on their own.

It is the latest part of Italy to tighten the rules on masks, after the cities of Genoa and La Spezia in Liguria introduced similar requirements.

Since Wednesday it has been obligatory to cover your face 24 hours a day around Genoa's port and throughout the famous alleyways that crisscross its old town.

Genoa province saw 60 new cases on Wednesday, its highest number in weeks and a sharp rise from the beginning of the month, when infections were increasing by single digits. 

Meanwhile in the city of La Spezia, about 80 kilometres south-east of Genoa, face masks were made compulsory outdoors, schools were ordered closed and public gatherings banned in certain neighbourhoods after recording as many as 90 new cases in 24 hours earlier in September.

Almost two weeks after restrictions began to be introduced, the figures have improved – new cases were at 23 on Wednesday – and the city's schools are set to reopen on Monday. 


Shoppers wear masks in Genoa's city centre. Photo: Marco Bertorello/AFP

Italian authorities are hoping that introducing timely local restrictions could be the key to avoiding another regional or even national lockdown. 

Genoa's new restrictions are targeted at neighbourhoods where tracking and tracing has revealed the highest number of new infections, according to mayor Marco Bucci.

“In the rest of the city the situation is very good… We're not planning to introduce stricter measures, which would put the city's economy in grave difficulty, ” he told the Corriere della Sera

In the rest of Italy, face masks are compulsory indoors during the day and outdoors between 6pm to 6am if you're in a busy area.

Italian police enforce the rules strictly and there are fines of up to €400 for non-compliance.

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COVID-19

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].”

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