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HEALTH

Coronavirus: Three regions to face strict measures as Italy announces new tier system

As the Italian government on Monday announced the latest set of restrictions aimed at stemming the spread of Covid-19, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said the worst-hit regions would face tough measures under a new three-tier framework.

Coronavirus: Three regions to face strict measures as Italy announces new tier system
Restaurants and bars must close early in Milan under current restrictions. Photo: AFP
*Note: This article is no longer being updated. For the latest news click here.*
 
Italy's latest emergency decree, set to be signed on Tuesday and come into force on Wednesday, includes a nationwide evening curfew and tougher measures for regions with the highest transmission rates, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte announced on Monday evening.
 

The forthcoming decree will include a new three-tier system expected to be similar to that currently used in the UK.
 
The worst-affected regions, which Conte named as Lombardy, Campania and Piedmont, would face the toughest restrictions.
 
“In the next emergency decree we will indicate three risk scenarios with increasingly restrictive measures.” Conte said.
 

The country is to be divided into three bands under differing “scientific and objective” criteria approved by the Higher Institute of Health (ISS), he said.
 

     

The forthcoming decree, which has not yet been signed into law, does not specifically mention lockdown measures. 
 
However, Conte said “targeted interventions according to the risks in the various regions” would include a “ban on travel to high-risk regions, national travel limit in the evening, more distance learning, and public transport capacity limited to 50 percent”.
 
Traffic-light system
 
The government has not yet given full details of the restrictions to be put in place under each tier, and the text of the forthcoming decree has not yet been released.
 
However, Italian media reports that the three tiers will be a “traffic-light system” as follows:
 
Red zones: Lombardy, Calabria and Piedmont.  Here, most shops including hairdressers and beauticians must close. Factories and essential services will remain open, including pharmacies and supermarkets as was the case during lockdown in March, Italian newspaper La Repubblica reports
 
Schools will remain open for students up to the sixth grade while older students will learn remotely.
 
Orange zones: Puglia, Liguria, Campania and other regions (full list yet to be confirmed.) Here restaurants and bars are to be closed all day (no longer only after 6pm as under current rules). However, hairdressers and beauty centres can remain open.
 
Green zones: All regions which are not declared red or orange zones. These will still be more restrictive rules than are currently in force.
 
 
Photo: AFP
 
The Health Ministry decides which region is in which zone, bypassing local authorities – many of which have said they do not want a local lockdown or other tough measures.

 
The system is based on the “risk scenarios” outlined in advisory documents drawn up by the ISS giving guidance on appropriate measures for the government to take in each case, Conte explained.
 
 
Health experts confirmed on Friday that the country overall is now in “scenario 3” but the situation in some regions corresponds to “scenario 4”.

Scenario 4 is the last and most serious provided for in the ISS plan.

EXPLAINED: What is Italy's 'scenario 4' and which regions are already in it?

Conte also announced national measures, including the closure of shopping centres on weekends, a complete closure of museums, restrictions on travel in the evenings, and moving all high schools and potentially middle schools to distance-learning.
 
The latest measures fell short of what had been expected – and what has been introduced in countries such France, the UK and Spain recently.
 

Italy's latest set of coronavirus rules will come in under the fourth emergency decree announced since October 13th.

 
Find all of The Local's latest coronavirus updates here.

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ENVIRONMENT

REVEALED: These are the most polluted towns in Italy

The northern cities of Milan and Turin were named Italy's 'smog capitals' in a new pollution report on Monday which urged the government to take action over poor air quality.

REVEALED: These are the most polluted towns in Italy
Photo: Pixabay

Smog and pollution are choking Italian cities year-round and many towns are exceeding limits on fine particles and other pollution, according to another report from Italian environmental watchdog Legambiente.

The Mal’aria di città (Air pollution in the city) report for 2023, unveiled on Monday, was the latest to warn about the risks to health posed by pollution in many parts of the country.

It found that 25 of 95 cities monitored had violated clean air ordinances by exceeding daily fine particle (PM10) emission limits, which are currently set at no more than 35 days a year with a daily average of over 50 micrograms per cubic metre.

Turin was ranked as the worst offender, exceeding this level on 90 days, closely followed by Milan (84), Asti (79), Modena (75), and Padua and Venice at 70.

These were followed by Cremona, Treviso, Mantua and Rovigo, all of which exceeded limits to a lesser degree.

All of the most polluted cities were in the northern Italian regions of Piedmont, Lombardy, Emilia Romagna and Veneto, with most within the north-western ‘industrial triangle’.

Some southern cities featured nearer the bottom of the ranking, with Andria (Puglia) and Ragusa (Sicily) exceeding limits on several days, as well as Rome, which overshot the permitted level for one day.

(Photo by Andreas SOLARO / AFP)

The average annual rate of PM10 emissions nationwide dropped slightly, by two percent year-on-year, the report found.

“This, however, is not enough to guarantee the health of citizens,” said Stefano Ciafani, president of Legambiente.

He pointed out that the situation looked even worse if air quality in Italian cities were measured against tighter limits under the new European Directive on air quality, in force from 2030, which lowers the PM10 threshold from 35 to 20 micrograms per cubic meter of air.

“Only 23 out of 96 cities (24 percent) would be under these limits,” Ciafani said, while 84 percent would exceed the threshold for PM2.5 and 61 percent for nitrogen dioxide (NO2).

Italy has repeatedly been reprimanded by the European Union over air quality, and has “persistently and systematically” breached EU recommended limits, the European Court of Justice ruled in 2020.

The north of Italy has long been ranked among the worst areas in Europe for polluted air according to data from the European Environment Agency.

“Air pollution is not only an environmental problem, but also a health problem of great importance,” said Ciafani. “In Europe, it’s the main cause of premature death due to environmental factors.”

“Italy has more than 52,000 deaths per year caused by PM2.5 emissions, equal to a fifth of those recorded throughout the continent,” he said.

The main causes of air pollution in Italian cities are reported to be industry, inefficient domestic heating systems, agricultural practices and, most of all, heavy traffic.

In Italy, cars continue to be by far the most-used means of transport. 65.3 percent of journeys overall are made by car, Legambiante wrote, with the emissions from some 38 million cars choking Italy’s towns and cities.

(Photo by Miguel MEDINA / AFP)

Legambiente said “drastic” measures were required to tackle the problem, including funds for more efficient heating systems in homes and public buildings and a major increase in public transport provision.

The group said Italy must “quadruple the availability of public transit, promoting integrated season tickets as done by Germany in 2022”, triple the number of electric buses, create zero-emission zones in town centres, and “create another 16,000 kilometres of cycle paths”.

It also praised local authorities choosing to bring in 30 km/h speed limits in city centres. Councils in Bologna, Turin, Milan and Cesena have all said they plan to implement these limits, following the lead of European cities including Paris and Madrid, despite fierce criticism from Italian transport minister Matteo Salvini.

Legambiente published a petition urging the government to make clean air and more livable cities a priority, saying Italy should follow Paris in attempting to create ’15-minute cities’, in which everyone lives within a quarter of an hour’s walk of vital amenities such as shops and schools and possibly also workplaces.