Italy’s Covid-19 zone restrictions updated as Alto Adige goes into lockdown

Italy's northern province of Alto Adige will go into a strict lockdown on Monday February 8th, as the the first case of the UK variant was detected. The rest of the country will remain in either yellow or orange zones under national rules.

Italy's Covid-19 zone restrictions updated as Alto Adige goes into lockdown
Residents wait to get a coronavirus test near Bolzano. Photo: Pierre Teyssot/AFP

On February 1st, Italy relaxed coronavirus restrictions in most regions, moving them from the “orange zone” to the less restrictive “yellow zone”, under the national colour-coded system that indicates risk and restrictions in place.

The national R rate, or reproduction rate, is stable at 0.84 compared to last week.
However, Health Minister Roberto Speranza stressed caution across the country. “We must not undermine the progress of the last few weeks, the result of the sacrifices we have made. The yellow zone does not mean we are out of danger,” he tweeted, adding that “we must not play with fire”.

The “yellow zone” applies to areas with moderate risk, where only national restrictions apply. It allows for daytime reopening (until 6pm) of bars and restaurants, opening of museums on weekdays, and greater freedom to travel within the region.
From Monday 8th, the autonomous province of Bolzano (also known as Alto Adige or South Tyrol) will be put under a strict lockdown for three weeks until February 28th due to the detection of the UK coronavirus variant and a high infection rate.

While the province was classed as orange under the national government's latest review of health data, the local government has ordered shops and schools to close and residents to remain at home except for essential reasons. 
The regions of Puglia, Sicily and Umbria are also orange zones, though several municipalities within Umbria have been declared local red zones.
Sardinia, which had been orange, will be moved back to a yellow zone.
From Monday, February 8th, Italy's regions are classified as follows:
Red zones: none.
Orange zones: autonomous province of Bolzano, Puglia, Sicily, Umbria.
Yellow zones: Abruzzo, Basilicata, Calabria, Campania, Emilia Romagna, Friuli Venezia Giulia, Lazio, Liguria, Lombardy, Marche, Molise, Piedmont, autonomous province of Trento, Sardinia, Tuscany, Valle d'Aosta, Veneto.
White zone: none.
Italy reported 385 coronavirus-related deaths on Saturday, up from 377 the day before, the health ministry said.
Please be aware that local authorities may impose additional restrictions on hotspots within each region. Always check the latest rules for your province or municipality via its official website: find where to look here.

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

Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani defended the policy of testing all arrivals from China for Covid-19 after Beijing said the policy "lacks scientific basis".

'Not offensive': Italian minister defends Covid testing rule for China arrivals

“It seems perfectly normal to me,” Tajani told Italian state broadcaster Rai on Tuesday. “Having a test is a way to protect people’s health. There is nothing offensive about it.”

“Lots of Chinese and Italians coming from China do it (anyway),” he claimed.

READ ALSO: Is the EU likely to reinstate Covid travel restrictions?

Italy was the first European country to make testing on arrival a requirement for passengers arriving on flights from China last week, after a surge in the infection rate there.

Italian Health Minister Orazio Schillaci said on Wednesday that the screening requirement was “essential to ensure the surveillance and identification of any variants of the virus in order to protect the Italian population”.

READ ALSO: Italy pushes for EU-wide China Covid measures as tests show no new variants

France and Spain have since introduced similar rules (as well as non-EU countries including the UK and USA) and there is now a meeting scheduled for Wednesday of the EU Integrated Policy Response Capability to discuss coordinating measures.

Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni said the screening policy would be “ineffective” if not done on a European level, as only people arriving on direct flights from China were being tested in Italy, not those with stopovers.

But the Chinese government on Tuesday hit out at countries introducing a policy of mandatory testing for people arriving from China.

“Some countries have taken entry restrictions targeting only Chinese travellers,” foreign ministry spokesperson Mao Ning was quoted as saying at a briefing by AFP.

“This lacks scientific basis and some practices are unacceptable”.

She said Beijing may “take countermeasures based on the principle of reciprocity”.