Until when will Italy’s state of emergency be extended?

With the current state of alarm period set to end on January 31 and Covid-19 infections on the rise, several Italian newspapers have reported that Conte’s government is considering two possible dates for the extension of the country’s emergency status.

Until when will Italy's state of emergency be extended?
Photos: AFP

Italy recorded more than 15,000 new coronavirus infections and 649 deaths on Tuesday January 5, further cementing the government’s fears that a third wave of the coronavirus is on its way despite a promising start to the country’s vaccination campaign.

Hopes in early December that the country could begin to reopen in January have now been dashed, and the extension of restrictions from January 7 have now been confirmed.

READ MORE: How will Italy’s rules coronavirus rules change in January?

What is yet to be decided is how long the country’s state of emergency will go on for, with the current state of alarm due to end on January 31st.

Italy’s state of emergency does not determine the emergency rules and restrictions and it's not the same thing as an emergency decree.

Italy’s stato di emergenza allows Italian officials to bypass much of the bureaucracy that often slows down decision-making.
It gives greater powers to both the national government and to regional authorities, and allows the Prime Minister to introduce, change, and revoke rules quickly via emergency decrees.

Several leading Italian newspapers including La Stampa and Il Messaggero are now reporting that the government is considering extending this emergency status until July 31st.

Italy first declared the state of emergency in late January 2020 after the first two cases of Covid-19 were detected in the country, in two Chinese tourists in Rome.

The current end date means the state of emergency will have been in place for one year.

If it is extended until July, the country could end up being under a state of emergency for at least a year and a half.

The other date being suggested in the Italian press is March 31st, a shorter extension which would largely depend on progress made in terms of vaccines and herd immunity.

Italian law states that the duration of a national state of emergency cannot exceed 12 months and can be extended for no more than a further 12 months.

But this does not mean that this particular series of states of emergency can last for two years until January 2022, as the 12-month extension period starts with the first extension, which began on July 31st 2020.

This suggests that Italy’s Covid ‘stato de emergenza’ will end at the very latest on July 31st 2021.

Italy's PM Giuseppe Conte already hinted there'd soon be an extension of the state of emergency at his end-of-year press conference.

For Agostino Miozzo, lead coordinator of Italy's Technical-Scientific Committee for Covid-19 (CTS), which advises the government on health policy, “extending the state of emergency seems inevitable and it will at least be necessary for it to last until late spring”.

What it does do is give greater powers to both the national government and to regional authorities, and it was declared in order to allow the Prime Minister to introduce, change, and revoke rules quickly, via emergency decrees, in response to the ever-changing epidemiological situation.

Since the start of the pandemic Italy has reported 2.1 million infections and 76,329 deaths from Covid-19.

As of January 6 2021, the country had vaccinated 260,000 people in its first week of Covid inoculations.  

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Former Italian PM faces investigation over Covid response

Italian prime minister Giuseppe Conte is set to undergo a judicial inquiry over claims his government's response to the Covid-19 outbreak in early 2020 was too slow.

Former Italian PM faces investigation over Covid response

Prosecutors in Bergamo, the northern city that was one of the epicentres of the coronavirus outbreak in Europe, targeted Conte after wrapping up their three-year inquiry, according to media reports.

Conte, now president of the populist Five Star movement, was prime minister from 2018 to 2021 and oversaw the initial measures taken to halt the spread of what would become a global pandemic.

Investigating magistrates suspect that Conte and his government underestimated the contagiousness of Covid-19 even though available data showed that cases were spreading rapidly in Bergamo and the surrounding region.

They note that in early March 2020 the government did not create a “red zone” in two areas hit hardest by the outbreak, Nembro and Alzano Lombardo, even though security forces were ready to isolate the zone from the rest of the country.

READ ALSO: ‘Not offensive’: Italian minister defends Covid testing rule for China arrivals

Red zones had already been decreed in late February for around a dozen other nearby municipalities including Codogno, the town where the initial Covid case was reportedly found.

Conte’s health minister Roberto Speranza as well as the president of the Lombardy region, Attilio Fontana, are also under investigation, the reports said.

Bergamo prosecutors allege that according to scientific experts, earlier quarantines could have saved thousands of lives.

Conte, quoted by Il Corriere della Sera and other media outlets, said he was “unworried” by the inquiry, saying his government had acted “with the utmost commitment and responsibility during one of the most difficult moments of our republic.”

READ ALSO: Italy’s constitutional court upholds Covid vaccine mandate as fines kick in

Similar cases have been lodged against officials elsewhere, alleging that authorities failed to act quickly enough against a virus that has killed an estimated 6.8 million people worldwide since early 2020.

In January, France’s top court threw out a case against former health minister Agnes Buzyn, a trained doctor, over her allegedly “endangering the lives of others” by initially playing down the severity of Covid-19.