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Italy to remain in partial lockdown until end of April

Coronavirus restrictions in most of Italy that closed restaurants, shops and museums through Easter will be extended throughout April, the government said on Wednesday, with all the country's regions either 'red' or 'orange' zones.

Italy to remain in partial lockdown until end of April
Italy's regions will remain under tightened restrictions throughout April. Photo: Tiziana Fabi/AFP

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But the government reserves the right to review the rules again before April 30th, not ruling out “an easing of measures” if the latest health data warrants it, according to the latest emergency decree approved late on Wednesday by the government of Prime Minister Mario Draghi.

The new decree, which is due to replace the one currently in force until April 6th, largely extends the measures already in place – notably the system of tiered restrictions based on an assessment of the Covid-19 risk in each region of Italy.

Between April 7th and April 30th all of Italy’s regions will be considered either red or orange zones, the two highest-risk categories, the government said.

That means no travel between towns or regions, no dining in restaurants or bars, and no museums reopening for at least another month.

EXPLAINED:

However, after Easter schools will be allowed to reopen up to the first year of secondary school (prima media), even in red zones, in an easing of the restrictions on the highest-risk areas. 

Pupils in higher grades will continue to have all their lessons remotely in red zones, and 25-50 percent of them online in orange zones. 

Meanwhile people in orange zones, who are confined to their own municipalities, will continue to be allowed to visit friends or family at home once a day so long as they stay within their town.

Visits within the same region have been temporarily authorized everywhere in Italy over the Easter weekend, but stricter limits will resume after the holiday, with no socializing allowed in red zones. 

EXPLAINED: What are Italy’s rules for travel over Easter?

Photo by Alberto PIZZOLI / AFP

While the text of the new decree has not yet been released, the government outlined the main measures in a statement after its cabinet meeting on Wednesday night. 

They include a requirement making vaccines compulsory for healthcare workers. Anyone refusing to be vaccinating can be reassigned, where possible, in roles away from the public. If not, their pay will be suspended.

Two weeks ago, on March 15th, new restrictions went into effect on three-quarters of the country. Health Minister Roberto Speranza said then that the clampdown might allow a relaxation of measures in the second half of spring.

Italy recorded 467 new deaths on Wednesday linked to Covid-19 and 23,904 new infections. Nearly 110,000 people have died in Italy since the coronavirus hit the country over a year ago.

The government has already tried to ensure that Italians do not congregate or travel during Easter, with the entire country considered a high-risk red zone over the weekend of April 3rd-5th.

In a red zone, residents have to stay home except for work, health or other essential reasons.

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

For the moment, no regions are considered yellow or white – the two lowest-risk categories – which would allow seated dining in restaurants until 6:00 pm and more freedom to travel.

The Italian Health Ministry decides which regions are in which zones based on weekly health data released every Friday afternoon. Once a region has been declared a red or orange zone, it must remain one for at least two weeks, with the tightened restrictions coming into force from Monday morning.

While the classification is usually based on a complex assessment of 21 different risk factors, any region that has a weekly incidence rate of more than 250 new cases per 100,000 residents automatically becomes a red zone.

Member comments

  1. I know in one popular tourist region, 30% of the restaurants will not be able to open. That’s a relatively wealthy region. Estimates are a much higher number in the cities. The lockdowns were bad enough, but what one Michelin star restaurant owner tells me, the opening and closing three time is what killed them.

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COVID-19

Covid-19: Are Italian live events at risk of being postponed?

As the infection rate rises sharply across the country, Italian virologists are calling for concerts and festivals to be rescheduled.

Covid-19: Are Italian live events at risk of being postponed?

Italy has seen a large increase in the number of Covid-19 cases in recent days, so much so that a number of virologists across the country are now urging the government to postpone major live events in a bid to curb infections. 

According to a new report by Italy’s independent health watchdog, the Gimbe Foundation, 595,349 new cases were recorded in the week from June 29th to July 5th; a worrying 55 percent increase on the previous week. 

In the same time span, the country also registered a 32.8 percent rise in the number of hospitalised patients, which went from 6,035 to 8,003.  

The latest Covid wave, which is being driven by the highly contagious Omicron 5 variant, is a “real cause for concern”, especially in terms of a “potential patient overload”, said Nino Cartabellotta, president of the Gimbe Foundation. 

As Italian cities prepare to host a packed calendar of concerts and festivals this summer, health experts are questioning whether such events should actually take place given the high risk of transmission associated with mass gatherings.

READ ALSO: What tourists in Italy need to know if they get Covid-19

“Rescheduling these types of events would be the best thing to do right now,” said Massimo Ciccozzi, Director of Epidemiology at Campus Bio-Medico University of Rome. 

The summer wave is expected to peak in mid-July but, Ciccozzi warns, the upcoming live events might “delay [the peak] until the end of July or even beyond” and extend the infection curve.

Antonello Maruotti, Professor of Statistics at LUMSA University of Rome, recently shared Ciccozzi’s concerns, saying that live events as big as Maneskin’s scheduled Rome concert are “definitely not a good idea”. 

The Italian rock band are slated to perform at the Circus Maximus on Saturday, July 9th but the expected turnout – over 70,000 fans are set to attend the event – has raised objections from an array of Italian doctors, with some warning that the concert might cause as many as 20,000 new cases.

If it were to materialise, the prospected scenario would significantly aggravate Lazio’s present medical predicament as there are currently over 186,000 Covid cases in the region (nearly 800 patients are receiving treatment in local hospitals). 

Italian rock band Maneskin performing in Turin

Italian rock band Maneskin are expected to perform at the Circus Maximus in Rome on Saturday, July 9th. Photo by Marco BERTORELLO / AFP

But, despite pleas to postpone the event, it is likely that Maneskin’s concert will take place as scheduled.

Alessandro Onorato, Rome’s Tourism Councillor, said that rescheduling is “out of question” and that “all recommendations from the local medical authorities will be adopted” with the help of the event’s organisers and staff on the ground.

At the time of writing, there is also no indication that the Italian government will consider postponing other major live events scheduled to take place in the coming weeks, though the situation is evolving rapidly and a U-turn on previous dispositions can’t be ruled out.

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

On this note, it is worth mentioning that Italy has now scrapped all of its former Covid measures except the requirement to wear FFP2 face masks on public transport (though not on planes) and in healthcare settings.

The use of face coverings is, however, still recommended in all crowded areas, including outdoors – exactly the point that leading Italian doctors are stressing in the hope that live events will not lead to large-scale infection.

Antonio Magi, President of Rome’s OMCEO (College of Doctors, Surgeons and Dentists), said: “Our advice is to wear FFP2 masks […] in high-risk situations.”

“I hope that young people will heed our recommendations and think about the health risks that their parents or grandparents might be exposed to after the event [they attend].”

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