Italy targets crowds and nightlife as it tightens the coronavirus rules – again

A new Italian emergency decree on Sunday introduced further rules aimed at stopping the spread of coronavirus. Here's what you need to know.

Italy targets crowds and nightlife as it tightens the coronavirus rules - again
Photo: AFP

*NOTE: This article is now out of date. For the latest rules, please click here*

Italian prime minister Giuseppe Conte detailed new restrictions on Sunday October 18th, just five days after Italy’s last decree was signed

The new restrictions, including a new “rule of six” for restaurants and new powers for mayors to close busy squares, were not as strict as many had expected.
Many new or toughened rules were targeted at stopping crowds from gathering at nightlife spots, and Conte's government seemed to have resisted pressure to introduce more sweeping measures.
“The strategy is not and cannot be the same as it was in spring,” Conte said in a televised address which began shortly before 10pm.
“We must act, deploying all measures necessary to avert a new generalized lockdown,,” he continued. “The country cannot afford a new setback which would severely jeopardize the whole economy.”
The national rules remain less strict than those brought in locally by Italy's two worst-hit regions, Lombardy and Campania.
Italy has been reporting record high numbers of new cases in recent days, witha 11.705 new positive cases recorded on Sunday.
You an find the full text of the decree here (in Italian). Here are the main measures to know about:
Crowded squares can be closed
Local mayors have been handed new powers to close off streets and squares after 9pm if crowds begin to gather. (The order would not apply to residents of the areas being closed off.)
Local fairs and festivals cancelled 
Local festivals and fairs or sagre, very widespread in Italy, will also be banned, affecting a sector which according to the agricultural union Coldiretti represents 34,000 jobs and 900 million euros in annual turnover.
Italian prime minister Giuseppe Conte addressing the nation on Sunday night. Photo: AFP
“Rule of six” for restaurants
While the Italian government had previously recommended no more than six houseguests at a time, it has now ruled that no more than six guests are allowed at a restaurant table.
All restaurant owners will need to display a sign showing the restaurant's maximum capacity.
Earlier closing for bars and restaurants
Restaurants, bars, gelaterias and other food and drink businesses without table service must close at 6pm. (They were made to close at 9pm under the previous decree).
Those with table service can stay open until midnight, and takeaway service is also allowed until midnight – however, food may not be consumed at or outside the restaurant.
Businesses are not allowed to reopen again before 5am – closing a loophole in the previous decree, which had reportedly allowed businesses to close at midnight and then reopen again almost immediately.
Hours changed for high schools
The new decree requires high schools to delay the start of the school day until 9am, and allows for some lessons to be moved to the afternoon (many Italian schools are normally only open until lunchtime).
The new decree also makes provisions for online lessons (for high schools only) in “critical situations” – though the education minister has said lessons should continue in person where possible.
More working from home
Gyms to remain open – for now
Swimming pools and gyms were warned that if protocols were not followed over the next week, they may face closure.
However Minister of Sport Vincenzo Spadafora said earlier this week that “the sector has faced huge expenses to adapt its spaces to safety protocols, and there is no scientific evidence of outbreaks in relation to individual training in places checked.”
Hairdressers and beauty salons remain open.
Amusement arcades, betting shops and bingo halls can stay open between 8am and 9pm.


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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].”