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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Masks to remain mandatory on Italian flights after May 16th

It will still be obligatory for passengers to wear masks on flights to Italy until mid-June, despite the end of the EU-wide requirement on Monday, May 16th, the Italian government has confirmed.

Masks to remain mandatory on Italian flights after May 16th

The Italian government reiterated on Friday that its current mask-wearing rules remain in place until June 15th, reports newspaper Corriere della Sera.

This means the mask mandate will still apply to all air passengers travelling to or from Italy, despite the end of an EU-wide requirement to wear masks on flights and at airports across the bloc from Monday.

READ ALSO: Reader question: What type of mask will I need for travel to Italy?

National regulations take precedence, the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) confirmed when announcing the end of the EU rules.

“Wearing face masks at airports and inflight should be aligned with national measures on wearing masks in public transport and transport hubs,” they said in a joint statement published on May 11th.

READ ALSO: Why are so many Italians still wearing face masks in shops?

“If either the departure or destination States require the wearing of face masks on public transport, aircraft operators should require passengers and crew to comply with those requirements inflight, beyond 16 May 2022.

“Further, as of 16 May 2022, aircraft operators, during their pre-flight communications as well as during the flight, should continue to encourage their passengers and crew members to wear face masks during the flight as well as in the airport, even when wearing a face mask is not required”.

The Spanish government also said on Thursday that air passengers would have to continue wearing face masks on planes.

Italy’s current rules specify that higher-grade FFP2 masks should be worn on all forms of public transport, including buses, trams, regional and high-speed trains, ferries, and planes.

Though rules were eased in some settings from May 1st, masks also remain a requirement until June 15th at Italy’s cinemas and theatres, hospitals and care homes, indoor sporting event and concert venues, schools and universities.