Italy to fine people up to €1,000 for not wearing a face mask in public

Italy to fine people up to €1,000 for not wearing a face mask in public
Italian police can hand out fines of up to €1,000 for not wearing a face mask in public. Photo: Vincenzo Pinto/AFP
Face masks are now compulsory in Italy everywhere in public, even outdoors, and the maximum penalty for failing to wear one has been hiked to 1,000 euros.

In an update to existing emergency measures wearing a mask in Italy will become obligatory whenever you leave your home, at all times of the day and in all parts of the country, after the government on Wednesday tightened its rules in response to recent rises in new cases of Covid-19.

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The government has also raised the fines for refusing to wear a mask to between €400 and €1,000, with police patrols deployed to check that people are complying. Until now the maximum penalty was €400, though some regions had introduced higher fines locally.

Businesses that fail to enforce the rules on their premises can be fined up to €1,000 and risk being shut down for up to 30 days.

The new rules, approved by the Italian parliament on Wednesday and effective from Thursday, specifies that people should always have a face mask whenever they leave their own home, using it “even outdoors when in proximity to other people not from the same household”. 

That suggests that you wouldn't be fined, for example, taking a walk in the countryside with your spouse or housemate without a mask, but you could if you fail to cover your face on a public street – or even with friends and family you don't live with.

Children under six and people with specific disabilities are exempt from wearing a mask, as is anyone exercising alone outdoors.

You're also allowed to take your mask off when you're eating or drinking at restaurants and cafés, which are supposed to keep customers at least a metre apart.


Socially distanced seating in Venice. Photo: Andrea Pattaro/AFP

The new rule tightens the previous requirement to wear masks in indoor public spaces and outdoors between 6pm to 6am. 

Several regions of Italy had already made wearing face masks outside compulsory at all times in response to local spikes in the number of new coronavirus infections, including Lazio, Campania, Sicily, Calabria, Basilicata, Piedmont and Le Marche.

The latest decree allows regional governments to introduce stricter rules and stiffer fines if their case numbers worsen, though loosening the regulations requires special permission from a national committee of scientific experts.

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In recent days Italy has seen its number of cases detected daily rise to April levels, though the number of people dying or being admitted to intensive care each day has remained much lower than when the first wave was at its peak.

Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte on Tuesday warned the public that “the battle is not won” and the country needs to remain on “maximum alert”. 

Among other penalties for not respecting Italy's coronavirus rules are fines of €400-1,000 for failing to quarantine preemptively, and a prison term of up to 18 months for those who refuse to self-isolate after testing positive.

The government is preparing to introduce a raft of new containment measures, including obligatory tests for travellers arriving from the UK, the Netherlands or Belgium, but on Wednesday put off voting on them until next week since several lawmakers are currently in quarantine and unable to attend.

In the meantime the rest of Italy's existing measures will remain in place until at least October 15th.


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