Covid-19: Most of Italy under lockdown again as country battles new wave of infections

Schools, restaurants, shops and museums closed across most of Italy on Monday amid a new wave of Covid-19 infections.

Covid-19: Most of Italy under lockdown again as country battles new wave of infections
Photo: Andreas Solaro/AFP

The Italian government announced on Friday that most of the country would effectively be under lockdown – in either the ‘red’ or ‘orange’ zone – following a fresh surge in infections.

Health Minister Roberto Speranza said he hoped the measures and vaccination programme would allow restrictions to be relaxed in the second half of spring.

“Each dose of vaccine injected is a step in the direction of the way out of the crisis,” he said on Sunday.

Despite immunisation programmes gathering pace, surges in infections remain a threat, and Italian authorities reimposed restrictions on three quarters of the country until April 6th to suppress an outbreak fuelled by a Covid-19 variant first detected in Britain.

The streets of central Rome were quiet Monday morning as the new restrictions took hold, which were sure to further bruise businesses already battered by a year of anti-virus measures.

“I didn’t expect it. We live from day to day,” said barista Ana Cedeno as she prepared take-out coffees for a few customers.

“We have lost a lot of money, because our customers have no money.”

All non-essential shops were closed from Monday, including in Rome and Milan, with residents told to stay home except for work, health or other essential reasons.

From Monday, every region with more than 250 cases per 100,000 inhabitants (according to official weekly health data) would be moved automatically into the highest-risk red zone, a spokesman for Prime Minister Mario Draghi’s office said.

Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi delivers a speech during a visit to a new vaccination centre at Rome’s Fiumicino Airport on Friday. Photo: GUGLIELMO MANGIAPANE/POOL/AFP.

New restrictions will be in place until at least Easter, when all of Italy would be under ‘red’ zone restrictions over the weekend of April 3-5, the prime minister’s office has confirmed.

The only exception to the restrictions is Sardinia, which is Italy’s only “white zone”.

On Friday, Draghi thanked Italians for their “infinite patience” and said the new measures would be accompanied by fresh support for families and businesses.

But he acknowledged there would be “consequences for the education of children, for the economy and also for the psychological state of us all”.

Ministers said enhanced measures were needed after weeks of rising numbers in most parts of the country.

Italy registered almost 27,000 new Covid-19 infections on Friday and 380 deaths.

The latest official health data on Friday showed that the critical Rt number (which shows the contagion rate) had risen again this week, from 1.06 to 1.16.

Hospitals and intensive care units are now under pressure in most Italian regions, reported Italy’s evidence-based medicine foundation GIMBE on Thursday.

“The trend of the contagion curve shows the start of the third wave,” GIMBE head Nino Cartabellotta told Rai News.

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

Member comments

  1. It seems a shame that things have started to turn bad in Italy as things are improving in the UK. It could be a long time before I see my family in the UK even if the UK meet their target of near normality by June.

    I took residency in Italy in 2020 as I wanted to live somewhere different before we lost freedom of movement. Now I have my residency rights protected by the withdrawal agreement. How much time do I need to spend in Italy to maintain these rights? For example if I spend too long (once we get back to normal) in the UK or on holiday outside of Italy would I lose my residency rights?

  2. If you have a temporary residence permit with an expiry date then you must spend 6 months and a day in Italy per year to maintain residency.

  3. I’m arriving to Italy on April 3rd from the US (covid-tested flight to Rome). Does anyone know if the trains are still running from the airport to Florence? Not sure what will happen since the entire country will be on lockdown for those few days.

    1. You can check that from Trenitalia’s website. The search on the frontpage should have up-to-date timetables. There should be a solution but possibly not a direct train.

      1. By “airport” do you mean FCO? I assume the FCO-Termini trains will be running; the airports are not closed, there are flights arriving and leaving every day, and people (including airline and airport employees) need to get to and from the airport. As for intercity, the Frecciarosa was running constantly during the last red zone lockdown, and the carriages were packed albeit at half capacity. I traveled often between Rome and Milan for work during red zone, there was no problem other than the need to book in advance because the trains fill up quickly at half seating. The current rules are not as strict as the first total lockdown last spring. Today I even saw a few clothing stores open in Rome although clearly that is not allowed. It’s Italy…vabbè.

        1. Yes, I meant the frecciargento trains that normally run twice a day from FCO direct to Florence. I don’t see any direct trains listed on the Trenitalia website, only those going through FCO-Termini. If I can’t get a direct to Florence train (from FCO), the backup plan is to take the train to Termini then take a frecciarossa to Florence. I was just trying to avoid that if it was possible but it doesn’t look like it is.

    2. As a friendly reminder be sure to have your papers ready and the permesso di soggiorno card ready to show. When my husband returned to Italy from the US last July, they were especially interested to see his PdS, the self-declaration form, and oddly enough asked him how much money he had on him. Here is the link to the form,

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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”.