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HEALTH

REMINDER: What are the coronavirus rules in Italy over New Year?

Italy goes back under tough 'red zone' restrictions over New Year, and the government has warned it will crack down on rule-breaking. Here's a reminder of what we can and can't do.

REMINDER: What are the coronavirus rules in Italy over New Year?
Rome's city police check pedestrians in an empty Piazza Venezia. Photo: Vincenzo Pinto/AFP

Italy goes in and out of lockdown several times over the Christmas and New Year period, as the government aims to stop infections being spread during festivities.

CALENDAR: What are Italy's new Covid-19 rules over Christmas and New Year?

The whole country goes back under strict 'red zone' rules again on Thursday, December 31st until January 3rd.

The Italian interior ministry said on Wednesday that thousands of extra police officers would be out enforcing the rules over New Year.

Interior Minister Luciana Lamorgese said an additional 70,000 officers would be deployed to carry out checks, and that social media would be monitored as police crack down on illegal parties at venues such as private villas or on luxury yachts, La Repubblica reports.

“We know that these meetings are being organized through social media. We will carry out targeted checks because we must prevent contagions that could fuel the third wave,” she said.

Lamorgese warned people to “carefully assess the risks” of “failing to comply with the rules set by the government to contain infections”, which include being fined up to 1,000 euros.

Anyone found to have given false information to police could even be prosecuted, facing a maximum sentence of six years in prison.

What are the lockdown rules over New Year?

As Italy goes back under 'red zone' rules from Thursday, you should plan to leave your house only for essential reasons like going to the supermarket or seeing a doctor.

Travel is not allowed even within your own town, or between towns or regions without a valid, urgent reason.
 
 
There is one key exception: you are allowed to travel within the same region, no more than once a day and with no more than one other person, to visit friends or family at home. Children under 14 or others in need of care are also allowed to come.
 
This means you are not allowed more than two guests at any time, not counting children under 14.
 
Bars and restaurants are closed, as are all shops except food stores, pharmacies, news agents, launderettes and hairdressers.
 
Curfew remains from 10pm to 5am every day, including on New Year's Eve, when it has in fact been extended until 7am on New Year's Day.

Individual outdoor exercise is allowed near your home (though no distance is specified) and taking your dog out is still allowed.

Travel to a second home within your region is allowed.

When going out for any of these reasons on the days Italy is classed as a red zone you will need to take a completed self-declaration form with you.

SEE ALSO: Here's the form you need to leave the house in Italy over Christmas

Non-essential travel between regions is banned for the entire period December 21st-January 6th.

Everyone arriving from overseas must continue to quarantine for 14 days on arrival during this period.

Travelling out of your region for work, health, emergency reasons, or to return home is permitted at all times (again, you will need a completed self-declaration form.)

The rules will change again on January 4th, when Italy will be under less restrictive 'orange zone' rules for one day before lockdown begins again on the 5th, ahead of Epiphany.

Please be aware that different regions of Italy may have additional local restrictions. Check the latest rules where you are: find out how to do that here.

 

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HEALTH

Q&A: What you need to know about Italy’s West Nile virus outbreak

As Italy records a surge in cases of West Nile fever, we look at what the disease is and where in the country it's spreading.

Q&A: What you need to know about Italy's West Nile virus outbreak

Mosquitos are unfortunately one downside of summer in Italy. But as well as being a nuisance, they may also pose a health risk in the country – one of the few in Europe to record cases of West Nile virus (WNV)

READ ALSO: Cases of West Nile fever surge in northern Italy

Last week Italy recorded 50 more cases of the mosquito-borne virus, bringing the total number of infections to 144 according to the latest report from Italy’s Higher Health Institute (ISS).

This marked a 53-percent increase in cases against the previous week, while ten people have died so far.

As the number of infections continues to rise, here are the answers to the most pressing questions about the disease and the outbreak in Italy.

What is it?

The West Nile Virus (WNV) is a single-stranded RNA virus that can cause West Nile fever in humans.

It’s a member of the Flavivirus family together with other endemic viruses such as the Zika and Dengue viruses.

The virus was first identified in 1937 in Uganda’s West Nile district but has since spread to many other parts of the world, to the point that it is now considered indigenous to Africa, the Middle East, Asia and Australia. 

Carried by birds, West Nile virus is transmitted to humans by mosquitoes.

The West Nile virus is primarily transmitted by mosquitoes of the Culex species, which infect humans and other mammals through their bite, according to Italy’s health ministry.

There is no evidence that human-to-human transmission is possible.

Where are cases being reported in Italy?

Infections have been largely concentrated in the north of the country, especially in the Veneto region, where six people have now died of the disease. Other deaths were recorded in Lombardy, Piedmont and Emilia-Romagna.

The city of Padua, which is located in Veneto’s mainland, around 35 kilometres away from the Adriatic coast, is currently regarded as the hotspot of the virus. 

It isn’t yet clear why Veneto has been the worst-hit region so far, but experts fear that its marshy lowlands might be the perfect breeding ground for disease-carrying mosquitoes. 

A mosquito of the Culex species viewed under a microscope.

Mosquitoes of the Culex species, a specimen of which is pictured above, are responsible for transmitting the West Nile Virus to humans and other mammals. Photo by Jon CHERRY Getty Images / AFP

How severe is the outbreak in Italy?

West Nile virus is not new to Italy. However, this summer has brought the highest number of cases recorded yet.

National infection levels remain relatively low but the country has by far the largest number of cases in Europe.

According to the most recent report from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), dated August 3rd, 94 out of 120 recorded cases were in Italy.

Greece had 23 reported cases. Romania and Slovakia had two and one respectively. 

Italy is the only European country that has reported fatalities.

What are the symptoms?

According to the Italian Higher Health Institute (ISS), around 80 percent of infected people show no symptoms whatsoever.

In symptomatic cases, however, symptoms generally resemble those of a common flu and include fever, headaches, nausea and diarrhoea. 

The infection is usually only dangerous for people with weakened immune systems such as the elderly, and the most severe symptoms occur in fewer than one percent of infected people.

In healthy people, the virus is unlikely to cause more than a headache or sore throat, and symptoms generally last only a few days.

According to the data currently available, around one in 150 infected people can show symptoms as serious as partial vision loss, convulsions and paralysis. 

In very rare cases (around 0.1 percent, or one in 1000) the disease can cause brain infections (encephalitis or meningitis) which may eventually be fatal.

Brazilian biologists handle mosquito larvae.

There is currently no vaccine against West Nile disease, though several are being tested. Photo by Apu GOMES / AFP

Is there a cure?

There is no vaccine against West Nile fever. “Currently vaccines are being studied, but for the moment prevention consists mainly in reducing exposure to mosquito bites,” the ISS states.

There is also no specific treatment for the disease caused by the virus.

Patients showing the more serious symptoms are usually admitted to hospital and treated with IV fluids and assisted ventilation.

What should you do to protect yourself?

Seeing as there is currently no vaccine against the virus, the best way to protect oneself is by reducing exposure to mosquitoes as much as possible.

Italian health authorities have listed a number of official recommendations to help residents avoid mosquito bites. These include: 

  • Use repellent
  • Wear long-sleeved shirts and long trousers when being outdoors and especially during ​​mosquitoes’ peak activity times, i.e. sunrise and sunset
  • Use mosquito nets on your windows or sleep in rooms with air-conditioning and keep the windows closed
  • Make sure there are no pools of stagnant water around your house

See more information about West Nile virus in Italy on the health ministry’s website.

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