EXPLAINED: What are the rules in Italy’s coronavirus ‘white zones’?

As all Italian regions move into the low-restriction 'white zone' from Monday, here's a closer look at what that means.

EXPLAINED: What are the rules in Italy’s coronavirus ‘white zones’?
(This article was updated on June 27th)
The last of Italy’s regions, Valle d’Aosta, will move into the lowest-risk ‘white zone’ from Monday, joining the rest of the country already in this classification.
Italy added the extra white tier to its system of coronavirus rules back in January, which is reserved for parts of the country where the coronavirus risk is lowest.

Valle d’Aosta now meets ‘white zone’ eligibility criteria as it has registered fewer than 50 coronavirus cases per 100,000 inhabitants for three weeks consecutively.

READ ALSO: What is Italy’s Covid-19 digital ‘green pass’ used for and how do you get it?

The main difference for this region will be an end to the limit on guest numbers you can have at home (which is currently four in yellow zones, not including children).

Italian Health Minister Roberto Speranza signed the new health ordinance on Friday confirming the change, based on the weekly health data.


What changes in ‘white’ zones?

Regions can drop most of the restrictions currently in place in yellow zones – which only included Valle d’Aosta this week.

Outdoor mask-wearing rules can also be relaxed in ‘white’ zones from Monday – though not removed completely – as the government announced earlier this week.

Most other measures have already been eased, including the midnight-5am curfew, which was abandoned nationwide on Monday June 21st.

Covid-19: When do you still need to wear a mask in Italy?

Social distancing rules remain in place in ‘white’ zones, and there’s still a ban on parties and large gatherings at home.

Regions in the ‘white zone’, which means the entire country from Monday, will be able to drop the last remaining restrictions, and reopen trade fairs, theme parks, conferences and indoor swimming pools and hold weddings under the national roadmap for reopening.

Nightclubs and discos are set to restart in early July, with opinions still divided on whether mask-wearing will be compulsory at these venues or not.

And the final set of rules in each region depends on the local authority, as each is free to impose stricter restrictions than those set by the national government.

Coronavirus: Where is the Delta variant spreading in Italy?

What are the criteria for ‘white’ zones?

To be declared a white zone, a region must have fewer than 50 cases per 100,000 inhabitants and an Rt number below 1 for three weeks in a row.

Predictions that the whole of Italy could be in a white zone by 21st June weren’t far off the mark, with the real date coming just a week later.

The national Rt number – the reproduction rate, used to calculate how fast the virus is spreading – remains stable at 0.69, the same as last week.

The incidence rate is declining however, with an average 11 cases per 100,000 inhabitants.

Although the whole of Italy will be in the lowest-risk category from Monday, Speranza urged caution and told Sky TG24 news, “We are still in this challenge.”

Prime Minister Mario Draghi added, “The pandemic is not over.”

Italy’s Higher Health Institute (ISS) said in a report on Friday the Delta variant now accounted for more than 16% of new cases in the country, and warned that this variant was more contagious and had the potential to be partially resistant to vaccines.

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

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Italy lifts mask mandate for private sector workers

Masks will no longer be required in the workplace but Italian companies will have the right to impose restrictions for employees deemed "at risk".

Italy lifts mask mandate for private sector workers

Representatives from the Italian Ministry of Labour, Ministry of Health and all major national unions collectively signed off on Thursday a new “shared protocol” (protocollo condiviso) for the implementation of anti-Covid measures in private workplaces. 

Although the full text of the bill will only be made available to the public sometime next week, portions of the document have already been released to the media, thus disclosing the government’s next steps in the fight against the virus.

The most relevant update concerns face masks, which will no longer be mandatory in private workplaces. 

However, the text specifies, FFP2 face masks remain “an important protective item aimed at safeguarding workers’ health”. As such, employers will have the right to autonomously impose the use of face coverings on categories of workers considered “at risk”.

READ ALSO: Italy’s transport mask rule extended to September as Covid rate rises

Notably, face coverings may remain mandatory for those working in “indoor settings shared by multiple employees” or even in “outdoor settings where social distancing may not be practicable”. Individuals with pre-existing medical conditions (soggetti fragili) may also be subject to such rules, which, it is worth reminding, are left to the employer’s discretion. 

Alongside mask-related restrictions, employers will also have the right to have their staff undergo temperature checks prior to entering the workplace. In such cases, anyone with a body temperature higher than 37.5C will be denied access to the workplace and will be asked to temporarily self-isolate pending further indications from their own doctor.

In line with previous measures, companies will be required to continue supplying sanitising products free of charge and regulate access to common areas (canteens, smoking areas, etc.) so as to avoid gatherings.

Additionally, employers will be advised to keep incentivising smart working (lavoro agile), as it has proved to be “a valuable tool to curb infection, especially for at-risk individuals”.

Provided that the country’s infection curve registers no significant changes, the updated protocol will remain in place until October 31st, when it will yet again be reviewed by the relevant governmental and social parties. 

With the latest round of measures, Italy has now scrapped all Covid-related health measures, except the requirement to wear face masks on public transport (though not on planes) and in healthcare settings, and self-isolation provisions for those testing positive. 

READ ALSO: At a glance: What are the Covid-19 rules in Italy now?

Italy’s infection curve has been rising significantly since the beginning of June. From June 1st to June 14th, Covid’s R (spreading rate) rate rose back over 1 for the first time since April 8th. Also, from June 17th to June 23rd, the virus’s incidence rate was 504 cases every 100,000 residents, up by 62 per cent on the previous week.

According to Claudio Mastroianni, Professor of Infectious Diseases at Sapienza University of Rome, “with 25 per cent of daily Covid swabs coming back positive and a R rate over 1, the infection curve will likely rise at least until mid-July”.

However, albeit acknowledging the rising number of positive cases, Deputy Health Minister Andrea Costa has so far categorically excluded the possibility of re-introducing lapsed Covid measures, saying that it’ll be a “restriction-free summer”.