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HEALTH

Q&A: Your key questions about Italy’s coronavirus rules answered

After bringing in its fourth set of coronavirus restrictions in less than a month on Friday, the Italian government has clarified some of the details of the latest measures.

Q&A: Your key questions about Italy's coronavirus rules answered
Photo: AFP

Under Italy's latest emergency decree, the goverment has tightened the coronavirus rules for the fourth time in three weeks in response to the country's worsening coronavirus situation.

READ ALSO: Italy's new coronavirus rules at a glance

The new decree, in force until at least December 3rd, includes a 10pm curfew and the closure of museums nationwide.

The government also announced a new national three-tier system splitting the country into red, orange, and yellow zones, meaning many rules now differ depending on where you are in Italy.
 
As there have been a lot of questions about exactly what is and isn't allowed in various parts of Italy, the government has released further informaton over the weekend clarifying some of the points in the decree.
 
 
Here are the answers to some of our readers' most pressing questions, according to information on the government's website.
 
Can I visit my second home in Italy?
 
This depends on exactly where your second home is, and where you’re travelling from.
 
If your second home is in a yellow zone, you can travel there from elsewhere in Italy.
 
If it’s in a red or orange zone, the government’s FAQ states, “it is allowed only if due to the need to remedy unexpected situations (such as collapses, breakage of plumbing systems and the like, break-ins, etc.)
 
If you’re travelling to your second home from outside Italy, you’ll need to be aware of the current travel restrictions in place (which are subject to change – see here for the current rules). 
 
What if I need to go out during curfew hours?
 
 
The public is urged to stay indoors between these hours, except for essential reasons like work or health emergencies.
 
Whether you're a resident or just passing through, you should prepare to fill out an autodichiarazione, 'self-certification form', if you have to go out during curfew hours. Find the form (and a guide to completing it in Italian) here.
 
 
Similar to the forms everyone in Italy had to carry during the nationwide lockdown, these slips state who you are, where you're going and why, and that you're aware of the rules in place as well as the penalties for breaking them.
 
Do the same travel restrictions apply to foreign citizens as to Italians? 
 
Yes. The government's FAQ states that “the restrictions are valid for all people present on Italian territory, regardless of their nationality.”
 
I need to leave Italy. Can I travel back to my home country?
 
Yes. Returning home is a valid reason for travel, whether you're returning to another part of Italy or to another country.
 
Whether you've been staying at your second home, or your visa is about to expire, if you need to leave the country this counts as an essential reason for travelling.
 
If you're driving, motorways and service stations are open as usual and there is no restriction on passing through a red zone such as Lombardy (as long as you're not stopping).
 
You will need to fill out a self-certification form explaining your reason for travel in case you encounter a police checkpoint. It's the same form you need when going outside under curfew. It's only available in Italian, but here's where to get it and how to fill it out.
 
For more travel information consult your embassy or see the Italian government's Viaggiare Sicuri website.
 
I’m planning to move house soon. Is this still allowed?
 
Yes, as during Italy's previous spring lockdown this would count as a necessity.
 
The transport, delivery and assembly of furniture also counts as a proven work requirement that justifies travel, the government's FAQ states.
 
You can get new furniture delivered and assembled if “the furniture sale took place in the store before the restrictions, and had not yet concluded with delivery and assembly.”
 
Is public transport still running?
 
Yes, however the latest rules mean capacity has been cut from 80 to 50 percent (with the exception of school transport).
 
Timetables may have changed and some services reduced as more people are now working from home, so be sure to check your route before you leave.
 
Can I go for a walk, jog or bike ride?
 
Yes – in yellow and orange zones. Outdoor exercise is allowed, as long as you go alone, keep a distance of at least one metre from others, and it is between the hours of 5am and 10pm.
 
In red zones, the government clarifies that you can go for a walk, jog or bike ride but must stay near your home (no distance is specified): 
 
“Walks are allowed, as a motor activity, only in the vicinity of one's home.” the government's FAQ states.
 
 
Walking or riding a bike is “also clearly allowed if necessary to make the other permitted trips (to work, health reasons or necessity).”
 
“For example, it is justified by reasons of necessity to go shopping, to buy newspapers, to go to the pharmacy, or in any case to buy goods necessary for daily life.”
 
However, as during the spring lockdown, local authorities are likely to interpret the rules differently and readers have already reported especially strict police officers telling them to go home when they were out for a solitary stroll.
 
Can I take my dog out?
 
As during Italy's strict spring lockdown, walking your dog is allowed even in red zones “but aaway from crowds and keeping a distance of at least one meter from other people,” the government's FAQ warns.
 
You can also take animals to the vet if necessary, although routine checkups must be postponed in red zones.

Can I travel outside of my comune to go shopping?

While everyone in Italy is asked to stay within their comune or municipality where possible, you can travel beyond its limits to go shopping if you need something that is not available in your local area – for example, if you live in a rural area which does not have a big supermarket.

However this is only applicable to things you need – any carabinieri who may stop you are unlikely to accept, for example,.shopping around in search of a bargain as a valid reason for travel.

“It is possible to travel to other municipalities only and exclusively for proven work needs, necessities or for health reasons,” the government’s website states.

“Therefore, where the municipality does not have sales outlets, or it is necessary to urgently purchase basic necessities not available in the municipality of residence or domicile, travel is allowed only within these narrow limits, which must be self-certified.”

Can I help my neighbour with their olive harvest this year?

It's very common for people in Italy to help their friends, neighbours or family members with the olive harvest at this time of year. Plus, it's a great reason to get some fresh air.

So little wonder we received a few emails from readers asking if it would still be allowed this year.

The short answer is that it depends on which zone you're in and how far you'd have to travel.

If both you and the olive grove are in a yellow zone, you won't face any restrictions. However. you can't travel from a yellow zone to an orange or red zone.

While there's no official guidance from the government on this yet, here's what we know so far.

Note: Some rules may vary under local restrictions in Italy. It is recommended that you also check the rules set by your town and region. Find out how to do that in a separate article here.
 
For further details on the current coronavirus situation in Italy, please see the Health Ministry's website (in English).

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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.