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HEALTH

Coronavirus: Italy could be ‘back to normality in 7-15 months’, says health official

Giovanni Rezza, the health ministry's director of prevention, said on Tuesday that Italy should be able to return to some form of normality “within seven to 15 months” if it can administer 240,000 Covid-19 vaccinations a day.

Coronavirus: Italy could be ‘back to normality in 7-15 months’, says health official
Photo: Miguel Medina/AFP

“We recently developed a mathematical model with the Higher Health Institute (ISS) and the Fondazione Bruno Kessler to see when we will be able to return to pseudo-normality,” Rezza told the Senate’s health and hygiene committee, according to Italian state broadcaster Rai.

READ ALSO: How and when can you get a Covid-19 vaccine in Italy?

“Assuming that the vaccine will protect from infection and that the vaccination is effective for at least two years, by vaccinating 240,000 people a day we will manage to return to normality in seven to 15 months.”

“This can be obtained with a high number of vaccinations and keeping up containment (of the coronavirus),” he said.

Doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine at a hub for Covid-19 vaccinations in Rome’s Fiumicino airport. Photo: Tiziana Fabi/AFP)

Under a recently-unveiled plan to speed up vaccinations in the coming months, Italy’s government says it aims to administer 56 million doses by June.

Italy is currently vaccinating around 110,000 people per day, and aims to increase this to 200,000 by the end of March for a total of 6.2 million doses this month,

The number is set to rise to 400 thousand per day in April (12 million per month), 500 thousand in May (15.5 million) and 600 thousand in June (18 million).

To facilitate this acceleration, the government reportedly plans to increase the number of vaccination sites in Italy to 2,000. These are expected to be operational by April.

“Today vaccinations are increasing,” Rezza said. “The number of available doses will certainly increase in the second half of the quarter 2021.”

“We now have three (approved vaccines),” he added. “By April we will probably have the fourth and others will arrive in a few months.”

READ ALSO: 

“In the second quarter of 2021 there will be many more doses than in the first quarter, and we will see the extension both of the number of vaccinators and of people who can be vaccinated.”

As hospital intensive care units are again coming under pressure, the government is also considering increased nationwide restrictions, from extending the current evening curfew to a national lockdown, according to media reports.

Additional measures could be announced by Friday if the infection rate rises again this week.

READ ALSO: Lockdown by next week? These are the new Covid restrictions Italy is considering 

However, the government is reportedly split over what form of additional curbs to introduce.

Rezza stressed to the Senate committee the importance of controlling infections during the vaccine roll-out.

“Containing the most dangerous variants today and mitigating the progress of the epidemic is essential to protect the vaccination campaign,” he said.

“The variants are very insidious. We have estimated that the English variant alone results in an increase in transmissibility between 35 and 36 percent.”

“The Brazilian also slightly reduces the effectiveness of the vaccine. So it is necessary to counteract the variants in every way.”

“Containing and vaccinating is the recipe.” 

Further studies need to be carried out before it is known precisely how effective the vaccines are, he said.

“We know that there is a high efficacy for most vaccines, but we do not know if they protect against the disease, or if they block transmission, which is important to know to understand if it can achieve herd immunity.”

“Furthermore, we do not know the duration of protection and the effect of variants on efficacy.” 

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TRAVEL NEWS

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.”

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