Covid-19: Italian PM Conte signs new emergency decree

The Italian prime minister has announced coronavirus restrictions to continue until March under the latest emergency decree, which comes into force on January 16th.

Covid-19: Italian PM Conte signs new emergency decree
People enjoy an outdoor aperitivo in Milan on Wednesday.Photo: Miguel Medina/AFP

Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte on Friday afternoon signed the latest emergency decree extending the country's coronavirus restrictions until March 5th.

The decree renews all measures currentlly in force, including the evening curfew starting at 10pm.

It keeps travel restrictions in place, and also keeps Italy's ski slopes closed until at least February 15th. Gyms and pools remain closed until March 5th.

Here's a look at what changes and what stays the same under the new decree:

Regional travel ban to continue

The current ban on leaving your region, introduced initially as a temporary measure over the Christmas holidays, will remain in place until at least February 15th, the government has announced.

That means that even travelling between yellow zones, where restrictions are lighter, is forbidden except in emergencies.

MAP: Which zone is your region in under Italy's coronavirus tier system?

You can continue to cross regional borders for work, health reasons or necessities, or to return to your place of residence.

Takeaway drinks ban
The government has confirmed a ban on selling takeaway drinks (from bars which do not also sell food) from 6pm.
The goal is to prevent gatherings by stopping people from drinking near the premises.
Limit on house guests

Until March 5th, the government has extended the guideline first introduced over the Christmas holidays that people should invite no more than two adults over at a time.

You're allowed to travel once per day within your own region, if you live in a yellow zone, or within your own comune if your region is orange or red, to visit someone else's home. And while you shouldn't be accompanied by more than one other independent person over the age of 15, you're allowed to bring children under 14 or other adults who need care.

Exceptions for small towns

The government has also extended an exception for people in small towns (5,000 residents or fewer), who are allowed to leave their own comune to go to any other town within a 30 kilometre radius – so long as they avoid the provincial capital.

They can continue to do so even if their region is declared a red or orange zone, where residents of larger towns must stay within their own comune.

Museums to reopen

Under the new decree, museums and galleries will be allowed to reopen in yellow zones from Monday to Friday.

New 'white zones'

Italy is adding an extra tier to its system of varying restrictions: white, reserved for parts of the country where the coronavirus risk is lowest. 

These areas will be exempt from the restrictions in place in yellow, orange or red zones, including a nightly curfew and 6pm closing time for bars and restaurants.

To qualify, regions must have fewer than 50 cases per 100,000 inhabitants for three weeks straight, as well as showing other positive indicators such as a low reproduction number and effective tracing system.

None of Italy's 20 regions currently meet the criteria, going by the latest health data; the region that comes closest is Tuscany, where the rate of incidence is still around three times higher than it would need to be.

Most regions expected to turn orange

Most Italian regions are expected to be placed in the orange zone later on Friday, Italian media reports.

Changes to Italy's tier system will be confirmed separately by the health minister, as these are based on weekly health data from each region.

Residency permits extended

Good news if your permesso di soggiorno was due to expire by April 30th: it will be automatically extended until May 20th, giving you a few extra weeks to go to your local police headquarters to renew it. 

Elections postponed

The deadlines to hold any upcoming special parliamentary elections and municipal elections have been pushed back to May 20th.

State of emergency extended

The government has also extended the Covid-19 state of emergency until at least April 30th, the health minister announced on Wednesday.

The state of emergency does not determine the rules.

However, it allows the govenment to bypass red tape, speeding up the response to the changing coronavirus situation by passing new rules under emergency decrees.

Note: Some rules may vary under local or regional restrictions in Italy. It is recommended that you also check the rules set by your town and region. Find out how to do that in a separate article here.

For further details on the current coronavirus situation in Italy, please see the Health Ministry's website (in English).

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Covid face mask rule on flights in Europe set to be eased

The mandatory EU-wide mask requirement for air travel is set to be dropped from Monday, May 16th, but airlines may still require passengers to wear masks on some or all flights

Covid face mask rule on flights in Europe set to be eased

Europe-wide facemask rules on flights are set to be ditched as early as next week in light of new recommendations from health and air safety experts.

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) dropped recommendations for mandatory mask-wearing in airports and during flights in updated Covid-19 safety measures for travel issued on Wednesday, May 11th.

The new rules are expected to be rolled out from Monday, May 16th, but airlines may still continue to require the wearing of masks on some or all of flights. And the updated health safety measures still say that wearing a face mask remains one of the best ways to protect against the transmission of the virus.

The joint EASA/ECDC statement reminded travellers that masks may still be required on flights to destinations in certain countries that still require the wearing of masks on public transport and in transport hubs.

It also recommends that vulnerable passengers should continue to wear a face mask regardless of the rules, ideally an FFP2/N95/KN95 type mask which offers a higher level of protection than a standard surgical mask.

“From next week, face masks will no longer need to be mandatory in air travel in all cases, broadly aligning with the changing requirements of national authorities across Europe for public transport,” EASA executive director Patrick Ky said in the statement. 

“For passengers and air crews, this is a big step forward in the normalisation of air travel. Passengers should however behave responsibly and respect the choices of others around them. And a passenger who is coughing and sneezing should strongly consider wearing a face mask, for the reassurance of those seated nearby.”  

ECDC director Andrea Ammon added: “The development and continuous updates to the Aviation Health Safety Protocol in light of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic have given travellers and aviation personnel better knowledge of the risks of transmission of SARS-CoV-2 and its variants. 

“While risks do remain, we have seen that non-pharmaceutical interventions and vaccines have allowed our lives to begin to return to normal. 

“While mandatory mask-wearing in all situations is no longer recommended, it is important to be mindful that together with physical distancing and good hand hygiene it is one of the best methods of reducing transmission. 

“The rules and requirements of departure and destination states should be respected and applied consistently, and travel operators should take care to inform passengers of any required measures in a timely manner.”