Schools to close in Covid ‘red zones’ as Italian PM signs new emergency decree

Italy’s prime minister Mario Draghi on Tuesday evening signed off on a revised coronavirus emergency decree which includes measures closing schools in areas with a high contagion rate.

Schools to close in Covid 'red zones' as Italian PM signs new emergency decree
Photo: Marco Bertorello/AFP

The new decree will be in force from March 6th to April 6th, Health Minister Roberto Speranza stated at a press conference at Rome’s Palazzo Chigi.

Prime Minister Mario Draghi was not present at the announcement.

Most existing restrictions will stay the same under the latest decree, but one of the new measures included is the closure of all schools in high-risk ‘red zone’ areas due to concerns about the spread of new coronavirus variants.

Until now, only secondary schools in red zones were closed.

Regional authorities will now have new discretion to suspend face-to-face teaching in areas within lower-risk orange and yellow regions where the coronavirus situation is particularly bad

“The British variant has a particular ability to affect younger groups,” Speranza said.

“This has led us to determine that in red zones all schools will move to distance learning, as well as in areas where the virus rate is equal to or greater than 250 per 100 thousand inhabitants” per seven days.

New data from the national ISS health institute revealed that 54 percent of coronavirus cases in Italy were now of the so-called British variant, which is considered more contagious.

Speranza also confirmed that the current regional tiered system of restrictions would stay in place.

“We believe that differentiating between areas is the right way, because it allows us to give the most suitable answer to each part” of the country, Speranza said.

The regional classifications will continue to be revised weekly based on monitoring reports from the Health Ministry and Higher Health Institute (ISS), with updates announced each Friday or Saturday now coming into force from Monday.

Other changes under the decree include allowing cinemas and theatres to reopen in ‘yellow’ zones from March 27th.

Venues cannot be filled to more than 25% of their maximum capacity: “up to 400 spectators outdoors or 200 indoors per room,” a government press release clarified.

Museums in yellow zones will also be allowed to open at weekends, not just Monday-Friday as is currently the case.

Hairdressers and barbers will be closed in red zones.

Gyms, swimming pools and ski resorts remain closed.

There were no changes to Italy’s current travel restrictions.

The ban on non-essential travel between all regions remains in place, as does the nationwide 10pm-5am curfew.

Find all of The Local’s latest updates on the coronavirus situation in Italy here.

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Italy cuts Covid isolation period as infection rate falls further

The isolation period for symptomatic Covid cases will be cut from seven days to five as Italy’s epidemiological situation improved again, according to an update from the health ministry on Wednesday.

Italy cuts Covid isolation period as infection rate falls further

The Italian health ministry signed off on a new set of Covid isolation rules on Wednesday after months of speculation about whether the isolation period in place all summer could be scrapped.

Under the update, anyone who tests positive for coronavirus and shows symptoms must immediately self-isolate for five days instead of the previous seven, and must test negative – via either a molecular (PCR) or rapid antigen test – at the end of that period, as well as being asymptomatic for two days.

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

Should the patient continue to test positive, they must remain in isolation until they get a negative test result. The maximum length of the isolation period was however cut to 14 days, down from 21.

Testing should be carried out at a registered pharmacy or testing centre. The results of home tests are not seen as valid for this purpose.

The isolation requirement applies to everyone including those who are fully vaccinated or recently recovered from Covid.

The changes came in a circular signed on Wednesday by the health ministry’s director of prevention, Gianni Rezza.

The circular, published on Thursday morning, said the rules had been relaxed “as a result of the cessation of the state of emergency” and based on health data analysis by Italy’s Higher Health Institute on August 24th.

The infection rate in Italy has been falling since mid-July.

The number of new infections recorded over the previous 24 hours on Wednesday was 21,817, with a test positivity rate of 13 percent.

Politicians from several parties criticised the decision to keep isolation rules in place, claiming this could affect voter turnout at elections on September 25th.

Italy’s outgoing health minister, Roberto Speranza, said this wasn’t an issue: “Just as with the last elections, there is the option of voting from home, as is done for the infirm,” he told news agency Ansa.

Italy does not currently require visitors from any country to test negative on arrival, as long as they are fully boosted, were recently vaccinated, or have recently recovered from Covid.

Read more about getting tested while in Italy in a separate article here.

For more information about Italy’s Covid health regulations, see the health ministry’s website.