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HEALTH

Coronavirus: How do Italy’s rules change in January?

Here's what we know so far about the Covid-19 restrictions in place from January 7th onwards.

Coronavirus: How do Italy's rules change in January?
Pedestrians in central Rome. Photo: Filippo Monteforte/AFP

**Note: This article is no longer being updated. For the latest on Italy's coronavirus restrictions, please click here.**

The Italian government had said in early December that the country could begin to reopen from January 7th, which is when the current set of rules expires.

But as new cases of coronavirus remain higher than hoped, that isn't happening.

The Italian government has approved extensions to many rules from January 7th. Here's what we know so far.

What are the rules from January 7th?

Italy is in a “reinforced” yellow zone from January 7-8th, meaning shops and restaurants can open under limited hours but non-essential travel is restricted.

The government has confirmed that bars and restaurants would stay shut over the weekend of January 9-10.

Many of Italy's current restrictions stay in place and planned reopenings have been postponed, according to a government ordinance approved in the early hours of Tuesday morning.

High schools were due to resume teaching at least 50 percent of classes in-person from the 7th. This has been postponed to the 11th.

The regions of Veneto and Friuli Venezia Giulia have said they will keep their high schools closed until at least January 31st.
 
Italy's ski slopes were scheduled to reopen from January 7th. But this has now been postponed until January 18th as regional authorities said they needed more time to comply with Covid-19 regulations.
 
The evening curfew remains in place from 10pm to 5pm across the country.

All museums, cinemas, theatres, galleries and other venues are expected to remain closed.

Bars and restaurants are only allowed to serve customers until 6pm even in yellow zones.

What about travel?

Non-essential travel between regions is to remain prohibited until at least January 15th.

International travellers who spent any part of the period from December 21st to January 6th outside Italy must continue to quarantine for 14 days after their arrival in Italy, even if they're entering Italy after the period itself. Find more information here.

People who leave and return to Italy after this time – i.e., people who spent the entire period between December 21st and January 6th in Italy and are only travelling from January 7th onwards – can show a negative Covid-19 test from the past 48 hours to avoid quarantining on arrival.

When will the rules change again?

The next Italian emergency decree is expected by January 15th.

It's not known what the government is planning, but any changes will depend on the coronavirus sitation in each region.

If the infection rate isn't dropping as hoped. it is likely that many rules will be kept in place.

Government ministers say they are waiting to see the weekly official health data reports from the Health Ministry, which are released every Friday afternoon, before they can make any decisions.

The number of currently positive cases in Italy is still dropping, but slowly, according to official data.

On Monday, when the numbers are usually lower than usual, Italy's health authorities reported 10,800 new cases within the past 24 hours and 348 more deaths.

The number of tests being carried out has fallen, to around 77,000 daily, and the percentage of tests coming back positive is currently 13.8 percent.

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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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.