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UPDATE: Italy tightens Covid restrictions further with new emergency decree

The Italian government has announced its third emergency decree in two weeks as the coronavirus situation continues to worsen across the country.

UPDATE: Italy tightens Covid restrictions further with new emergency decree
Restaurants in Rome now have to close early under regional curfew rules. Could this soon be extended nationwide? Photo: AFP
Italy's Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte tightened nationwide coronavirus restrictions Sunday after the country recorded a record number of new cases, despite opposition from regional leaders.
 
Cinemas, theatres, gyms and swimming pools must all close under the new rules, which will come into force on Monday, while restaurants and bars will have to stop serving at 6pm, the prime minister announced  on Sunday afternoon.
 
“The aim is clear: to keep the contagion curve under control, because that is the only way can we manage the pandemic without being overwhelmed by it,” Conte told a press conference.
 
It was imperative Italy act now to avoid a second full lockdown, which “the country can no longer afford”, he said.
 
After the last two decrees were signed on October 13th and 18th, health experts and local politicians continued to urge the government to enforce far stricter measures in view of the sharply rising contagion curve, and warned that tracing and testing was no longer enough to control the surge in Italy's biggest cities
 
Italy recorded a further 19,644 new infections on Saturday and 151 deaths.
 
However Italy’s worst-hit regions of Lombardy, Campania and Lazio have in recent days implemented their own tougher local measures, including nighttime curfews.
 
Piedmont in the north and Sicily in the south will follow this week.
Here is a summary of the most important changes:
 
Restricted opening for restaurants
 
Bars, restaurants and other food businesses will have to close at 6pm daily.
 
Takeaway and home delivery are still allowed.
 
 
Gyms, pools, cinemas to close
 
“The activities of games rooms, betting shops, bingo halls and casinos are suspended. Shows open to the public in theatres, concert halls, cinemas and other open spaces are also suspended”, the draft of the latest decree states.
 
In addition, gyms and swimming pools must all close, the prime minister's office stated on Sunday.
 
Recommendation not to leave your comune
 
The provisional decree text states: “it is strongly recommended that all persons do not travel, by public or private means of transport, to a municipality other than that of residence, domicile or home, except for proven work, study, or health reasons, for situations of need, or to carry out activities or use services that are not suspended and not available in that municipality.”
 
More online learning for high school students
 
Nursery schools, elementary and middle schools are to continue lessons with students in attendance.
 
High schools across the country will be required to teach at least 75 percent of lessons online, as the latest decree aims to standardize various regional ordinances.
 

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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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