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COVID-19

Covid-19: Italy relaxes rules in six regions as contagion rate falls

Restrictions are set to change in several Italian regions from Monday after new health data confirmed that the nationwide contagion rate is down slightly.

Covid-19: Italy relaxes rules in six regions as contagion rate falls
Photo: Marco Bertorello/AFP

Health Minister Roberto Speranza is on Friday evening preparing to sign an ordinance moving several regions from the ‘red’ to ‘orange’ zone thanks to an overall improvement in the contagion rate nationwide.

Calabria, Emilia Romagna, Friuli Venezia Giulia, Lombardy, Piedmont and Tuscany will turn orange from Monday, the health ministry confirmed.

Sardinia will meanwhile move from orange to red, as the situation has worsened locally on the island – which was until recently Italy’s only low-restriction ‘white zone’.

READ ALSO: Italy suggests restarting tourism from June 2nd

Campania, Valle D’Aosta and Puglia are to remain red zones.

This means that, from Monday April 12th, the majority of Italy’s regions will be orange zones, where residents face slightly less stringent rules and shops can reopen. However, non-essential travel between towns is still restricted, while bars, restaurants remain shut except for takeaway or delivery service.

“Stricter measures have resulted in an initial flattening of the (contagion) curve, but the situation is still highly complicated, with a significant virus spread rate and intensive care units full,” Speranza told a press conference on Friday afternoon.

EXPLAINED:

Italy’s coronavirus Rt reproduction number has fallen to 0.92, down from 0.98 last week, according to the weekly coronavirus monitoring report released by Italy’s health ministry and Higher Health Institute (ISS).

The incidence rate of new cases has fallen to 185 cases for every 100,000 inhabitants, down from 232 last week, the report said.

Despite bar and restaurant owners becoming increasingly angry about forced shutdowns, with some of them clashing with police in Rome this week, the reopening of these businesses is not expected before April 30th.

Italy is one of the countries worst-hit by the pandemic, with more than 113,500 deaths, including some 31,500 in Lombardy, the region home to its business and fashion capital, Milan.

New infections have dropped by more than 11 percent in the week ending April 6th, but intensive care units are saturated, according to the GIMBE health think tank.

Meanwhile, the country is struggling with its vaccination programme.

To date, it has administered 12.3 million doses and fully vaccinated 3.8 million people, little more than 6 percent of the total population.

READ ALSO: Why is Italy’s coronavirus vaccine plan missing its targets?

On Thursday, Italian prime minister Mario Draghi warned regional governments they must improve vaccination efforts if they want to see the restrictive measures lifted.

He said the country’s vaccination effort must now focus on over-75s, as the country’s death toll remains one of Europe’s highest.

Draghi also attacked ‘queue-jumpers’ taking jabs who were not in priority groups.

Italian media reported that up to 30 percent of vaccines in some regions appeared to have been incorrectly given to people who were not in priority groups.

Investigators concerned about mafia infiltration have ordered four regions –  Sicily, Calabria, Campania and Valle D’Aosta – to turn over vaccination data and explain how they prioritised the doses.

Emergency commissioner General Francesco Paolo Figliuolo on Thursday stressed that he would not revise Italy’s target of administering half a million doses daily by the end of April, despite the current average number of daily doses being around 240,000.

Member comments

  1. Take vaccine and use the mask to help guys. Luke 12, and 11; forsake what you have [sell out giving to the poor], everyone and your life for Him. Luke 16 work for the Maker (help the planet also) not $$$. Mark 16 share His good news in love to all. John 17 work together in love. Revelation 13, to 14 the Mark of the Beast, right hand // forehead, the only way to buy or sell (not a vaccine or mask but maybe quantum -something). Revelation 17, to 18 the Babylon to be destroyed in one hour with fire. It’s most likely the US.

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COVID-19 RULES

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”.

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