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HEALTH

What are the rules in Italy’s Covid-19 ‘orange zones’?

Italy's orange zones aren't in full lockdown, but the rules remain strict. Here's what you need to know if your region is one of them.

What are the rules in Italy's Covid-19 'orange zones'?
Serving takeaway coffee in Rome, which is due to become an 'orange' zone. Photo: Andreas Solaro/AFP

All but three of Italy’s 20 regions are currently medium-high risk zone arancione (orange zones) under the latest update to the regional rules, effective from April 19th.

MAP: Which zone is your region in under Italy’s lockdown?

Here are the key things to know if your region is one of them.

How and when are the zones decided?

The Italian health ministry bases its decision on a weekly report from the country’s top health institute, which analyses the latest incidence rate, transmission numbers, hospital occupancy and other factors to assess the risk level in each region.

The data is announced every Friday afternoon, with rule changes taking effect from Monday morning. 

Once a region is declared an orange zone, it usually remains one for at least two weeks.

Exceptionally, all of Italy will become a red zone over the Easter weekend from April 3rd to 5th.

What are the rules in orange zones?

You can circulate freely within your municipality (town), but it is forbidden to move between municipalities except for essential reasons.

If you leave your municipality, you must complete a self-declaration form justifying your journey.

There is an exception for residents of small towns (5,000 inhabitants or fewer), who are allowed to travel freely to other municipalities within a 30km radius, so long as they avoid the provincial capital.

Schools remain open, with partial distance learning for older pupils, but local authorities can order schools to close and move learning online.

Checking pupils’ temperature at the school gates. Photo by Marco Bertorello / AFP

Bars, cafes, restaurants, pastry shops and other food businesses are closed. Home delivery is still allowed, and takeaway is permitted until 10pm.

Museums, galleries, cinemas, theatres and concert halls are closed.

Gyms are closed and contact sports are forbidden. But you can continue to exercise outdoors, with social distancing. 

All shops can remain open, along with hairdressers and beauticians.

Religious services can continue to take place, with social distancing and other precautions.

Travel to a second home (including in a different town or region) is allowed only if you can prove you owned or rented the property before January 14th 2021, and if no one else lives there. This means new short-term rentals are not permitted, and you can’t stay with relatives.

You can visit family and friends who live in the same town once a day, between the hours of 5am to 10pm. No more than two adults, plus children under 14, should go at once.

Visiting the homes of family and friends outside your municipality is not allowed.

Are there any other rules to know about?

Yes: a 10pm-5am curfew remains in place nationwide, and all non-essential travel between regions is banned.

Face masks are compulsory in all public spaces, both indoors and outdoors. 

Individual regions, provinces or municipalities may also set their own restrictions on top of the standard rules. Check your regione or comune‘s official website for the latest updates in your area: find where to look here.

Please note The Local is not able to advise on specific situations. For more information on the restrictions please see the Italian Health Ministry’s website (in English).

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COVID-19 VACCINES

Italy’s deputy health minister under fire after casting doubt on Covid vaccines

Opposition leaders called for health undersecretary Marcello Gemmato to resign on Tuesday after the official said he was not "for or against" vaccines.

Italy's deputy health minister under fire after casting doubt on Covid vaccines

Gemmato, a pharmacist and member of Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni’s far-right Brothers of Italy party, made the remark during an appearance on the political talkshow ReStart on Rai 2 on Monday evening.

READ ALSO: Covid vaccines halved Italy’s death toll, study finds

In a widely-shared clip, the official criticises the previous government’s approach to the Covid pandemic, claiming that for a large part of the crisis Italy had the highest death rate and third highest ‘lethality’ rate (the proportion of Covid patients who died of the disease).

When journalist Aldo Cazzullo interjects to ask whether the toll would have been higher without vaccines, Gemmato responds: “that’s what you say,” and claimed: “We do not have the reverse burden of proof.”

The undersecretary goes on to say that he won’t “fall into the trap of taking a side for or against vaccines”.

After Gemmato’s comments, the president of Italy’s National Federation of Medical Guilds, Filippo Anelli, stressed that official figures showed the Italian vaccination campaign had already prevented some 150,000 deaths, slashing the country’s potential death toll by almost half.

Vaccines also prevented eight million cases of Covid-19, over 500,000 hospitalisations, and more than 55,000 admissions to intensive care, according to a report from Italy’s national health institute (ISS) in April 2021.

Gemmato’s comments provoked calls for him to step down, including from the head of the centre-left Democratic Party, Enrico Letta.

“A health undersecretary who doesn’t take his distance from no-vaxxers is certainly in the wrong job” wrote the leader of the centrist party Action, Carlo Calenda, on Twitter.

Infectious disease expert Matteo Bassetti of Genoa’s San Martino clinic also expressed shock.

“How is it possible to say that there is no scientific proof that vaccines have helped save the lives of millions of people? You just have to read the scientific literature,” Bassetti tweeted. 

In response to the backlash, Gemmato on Tuesday put out a statement saying he believes “vaccines are precious weapons against Covid” and claiming that his words were taken out of context and misused against him.

The Brothers of Italy party was harshly critical of the previous government’s approach to handling the Covid crisis, accusing the former government of using the pandemic as an excuse to “limit freedom” through its use of the ‘green pass’, a proof of vaccination required to access public spaces. 

But since coming into power, Meloni appears to have significantly softened her stance.

Her appointee for health minister, Orazio Schillaci, is a medical doctor who formed part of the team advising the Draghi administration on its handling of the pandemic.

Schillaci, a former dean of the Faculty of Medicine and Surgery at Rome’s Tor Vergata University, has described the former government’s green pass scheme as an “indispensable tool for guaranteeing safety in university classrooms”.

Speaking at a session of the G20 on Tuesday, Meloni referenced the role of vaccines in bringing an end to the Covid pandemic.

“Thanks to the extraordinary work of health personnel, vaccines, prevention, and the accountability of citizens, life has gradually returned to normal,’ the prime minister said in a speech.

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