Italy's government last week announced a complete ban on non-essential travel between towns on Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year's Day, a rule it hopes could help prevent a new spike in coronavirus infections being triggered by socialising over the holidays.
The government introduced a raft of travel restrictions over the holidays as it tried to hammer its message home about limiting travel and skipping the big parties over this particular festive season.
In a country where family gatherings can be particularly large and frequent, the government has refrained from setting rules about how many people you can invite over for dinner.
Instead, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte pleaded with people last week to think of the risk of transmission to elderly relatives – and banned travel between towns on those key dates as well as between all regions from December 21st-January 6th.
But the government is now reconsidering the travel ban between towns on Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year's Day after widespread opposition to the rule, Italian media reports.
Under pressure from both political oppenents and several ministers in his own cabinet, Conte has opened a “discussion” of the rules, Italian news agency Ansa reports.
Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio said the ban on travel between towns was “absurd”, while health minister Roberto Speranza said the government must maintain “maximum prudence”.
“I would like to say that it is all over but unfortunately it is not,” said Speranza on Thursday. “We have asked Italians for more patience and sacrifices over this Christmas too. We really need to stick to our guns.”
However, the government looks unlikely to get rid of the rule altogether.
Conte appears to be open to the rules being relaxed, potentially allowing travel between neighbouring municipalities.
“It is clear that those who live in a big city and have close relatives have the opportunity to move, while those in smaller villages may have some difficulties,” Conte told media at a press conference in Brussels on Friday.
“If Parliament, assuming all responsibility for it, wants to introduce exceptions to smaller municipalities within a limited kilometre radius, we will come back to this point. Parliament is sovereign. But great caution in any exception,” he stated.
Any change to the rules would be likely to come in the form of “a modification of the decree in force since December 4th, or an update to the government's FAQ, which gives with a more extensive interpretation of the situations that justify travel, according to financial newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore.
The government has already updated the new rules once via a modification to the FAQ, slightly relaxing the rules on travel to second homes in a clarification published on Wednesday.
However, everything could depend on the outcome of a debate in the Senate on Wednesday, after the coaliton of right-wing opposition parties presented a motion which aims to have the rule thrown out completely.
Many people are concerned about how the travel ban would affect older people who are living alone.
Under current rules, people are allowed to travel to vist relatives who are “not self-sufficient”, the government has stated, however only one person is allowed to visit at a time.
And no travel is allowed for “reasons of company,” the decree law stated.
Domestic travel will be limited not only within the higher-risk zones classed as red or orange under Italy's tier system, but also between all regions from December 21st to January 6th. The additional restriction on travel between all towns would then also be in force on Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year's Day.
These restrictions are in addition to the 10pm evening curfew which remains in place throughout.