‘No strolling’ in Venice as Italian regions tighten local Covid-19 rules

Three northern Italian regions plan to forbid strolls in crowded city centres, including Venice, Bologna and Trieste, as they take stricter new measures against the spread of Covid-19.

'No strolling' in Venice as Italian regions tighten local Covid-19 rules
Strolling in the centre of Venice and other northern cities is set to be temporarily banned. Photo: Miguel Medina/AFP

Veneto, Emilia-Romagna and Friuli-Venezia Giulia will introduce new regional ordinances urging residents to avoid exercising or simply strolling on the streets of their town centres as part of efforts to avoid crowding and further transmission of the coronavirus.

READ ALSO: ‘No plan, just hope’: How is Italy going to get the second wave under control?

All three regions have opted to tighten local rules despite being classed as 'yellow zones', the lowest of three risk levels under the Italian government's tier system.

The added restrictions are the equivalent of “yellow plus”, said Veneto's regional governor Luca Zaia.

Speaking at a press conference on Thursday, he announced that the new rules would come into force from November 14th until December 3rd.

They will include:
  • No exercising or strolling in city centres, crowded areas or beachfronts;
  • Bars and restaurants to become table service-only from 3 to 6pm; 
  • Weekly street markets are cancelled, unless they have a detailed safety plan in place;
  • Shopping centres and outlets to close on weekends and all shops to close on Sundays, except for those selling essential supplies like supermarkets or pharmacies;
  • Only one person per household will be allowed to enter a shop at a time, except for parents accompanying children or people who need assistance;
  • Supermarkets are advised to reserve their first two hours of opening for shoppers aged over 65; 
  • In schools, sports lessons, singing and playing wind instruments are suspended. 

Emilia-Romagna and Friuli-Venezia Giulia will apply similar restrictions at the same time, their governors said.

Until the text of the new ordinances is published, it's unclear whether unauthorised strolling in one of the three regions will earn you a fine or simply a reprimand.

“We don't want to give fines, but shared rules that everyone respects,” said the governor of Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Massimiliano Fedriga.

Exercise is still allowed, but residents are urged to find an isolated area to go for a walk or run. Meanwhile they can still access city centres for a valid reason, such as to go to work, go shopping or visit a restaurant.

The new restrictions come on top of baseline national regulations that have already closed high schools, museums, cinema and theatres, set a curfew from 10pm and ordered bars and restaurants to close at 6pm. 

Regions designated orange (medium-high risk) or red (high risk) have tougher limits in place, closing bars and restaurants to the public and banning travel between towns or outside the region.

The classification, which is based on a complex assessment of each region's epidemiological situation and the resilience of its health service, has proven controversial, with some of the regions currently reporting thousands of new infections per day – including Campania and Lazio – remaining yellow while regions with lower numbers are classed red or orange.

READ ALSO: How does Italy decide which regions are Covid-19 red zones?

The Health Ministry reevaluates the classification every few days, and it's rumoured that Veneto, Emilia-Romagna and Friuli-Venezia Giulia – as well as Campania – are all on its watchlist.

The three regions' joint ordinances are an effort to head off even tighter restrictions that could be ordered by the national government.

“It's better to make a few sacrifices today than find ourselves a red zone tomorrow,” said Zaia.

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Covid face mask rule on flights in Europe set to be eased

The mandatory EU-wide mask requirement for air travel is set to be dropped from Monday, May 16th, but airlines may still require passengers to wear masks on some or all flights

Covid face mask rule on flights in Europe set to be eased

Europe-wide facemask rules on flights are set to be ditched as early as next week in light of new recommendations from health and air safety experts.

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) dropped recommendations for mandatory mask-wearing in airports and during flights in updated Covid-19 safety measures for travel issued on Wednesday, May 11th.

The new rules are expected to be rolled out from Monday, May 16th, but airlines may still continue to require the wearing of masks on some or all of flights. And the updated health safety measures still say that wearing a face mask remains one of the best ways to protect against the transmission of the virus.

The joint EASA/ECDC statement reminded travellers that masks may still be required on flights to destinations in certain countries that still require the wearing of masks on public transport and in transport hubs.

It also recommends that vulnerable passengers should continue to wear a face mask regardless of the rules, ideally an FFP2/N95/KN95 type mask which offers a higher level of protection than a standard surgical mask.

“From next week, face masks will no longer need to be mandatory in air travel in all cases, broadly aligning with the changing requirements of national authorities across Europe for public transport,” EASA executive director Patrick Ky said in the statement. 

“For passengers and air crews, this is a big step forward in the normalisation of air travel. Passengers should however behave responsibly and respect the choices of others around them. And a passenger who is coughing and sneezing should strongly consider wearing a face mask, for the reassurance of those seated nearby.”  

ECDC director Andrea Ammon added: “The development and continuous updates to the Aviation Health Safety Protocol in light of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic have given travellers and aviation personnel better knowledge of the risks of transmission of SARS-CoV-2 and its variants. 

“While risks do remain, we have seen that non-pharmaceutical interventions and vaccines have allowed our lives to begin to return to normal. 

“While mandatory mask-wearing in all situations is no longer recommended, it is important to be mindful that together with physical distancing and good hand hygiene it is one of the best methods of reducing transmission. 

“The rules and requirements of departure and destination states should be respected and applied consistently, and travel operators should take care to inform passengers of any required measures in a timely manner.”