Coronavirus: How the rules change as Italy relaxes lockdown for one day

On Monday January 4th, Italy's lockdown is eased for one day only. Here's a look at how the rules change this week.

Coronavirus: How the rules change as Italy relaxes lockdown for one day
Photo: Tiziana Fabi/AFP

Italy has gone in and out of 'red zone' lockdown several times over the Christmas and New Year period, as the government aims to stop coronavirus infections being spread during festivities.

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

The last of Italy's three mini lockdowns is over Epiphany and begins on January 5th, meaning the country is again classed as an 'orange zone' on the 4th for one day.

Here's what that means and how the rules are set to change.

January 4th: Orange zone

Italy goes back under orange zone rules again for one day: only essential travel is allowed between regions, but you can circulate freely within your own town.

People in small towns (5,000 inhabitants or fewer) can travel within a radius of 30 kilometres in order to reach neighbouring comuni, but they must not go to the provincial capital.

Bars and restaurants are closed to customers, though they can makes deliveries or serve take-out until 10pm. Shops are allowed to remain open until 9pm. 

Curfew begins at 10pm and lasts until 5am.

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

January 5th to 6th: Red zone

Italy becomes a nationwide red zone again, meaning people must not circulate within their own towns, between towns, or between regions without a valid, urgent reason, though individual outdoor exercise is allowed and you can make one trip within the region per day to visit friends or family at home.

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.

Bars and restaurants are closed, as are all businesses except food stores, pharmacies, news agents, laundrettes and hairdressers.

Curfew remains from 10pm to 5am.

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

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

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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.