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HEALTH

Covid-19: Italy eases restrictions in three more regions from Monday

All but three of Italy's regions are under relaxed restrictions in the lower-risk 'yellow' zone from Monday.

Covid-19: Italy eases restrictions in three more regions from Monday
Almost all Italian regions have now been allowed to reopen restaurants, bars and cafes. Photo: Miguel Medina/AFP

More restrictions have been lifted from Monday in the southern Italian regions of Basilicata, Calabria and Puglia, which moved from the ‘orange’ to the ‘yellow’ zone under the latest update to Italy’s tiered system of coronavirus restrictions.

Sicily and Sardinia remain orange for at least one more week, the health ministry confirmed at a press conference on Friday evening..

There are no more high-risk ‘red’ zones on the map, as the small northern region of Valle d’Aosta moves to the slightly less restrictive orange zone thanks to an improvement in the contagion rate locally, the health ministry stated.

MAP: Where in Italy are coronavirus cases falling fastest?

Health Minister Roberto Speranza signed the latest ordinance on Friday bringing the changes into effect from Monday May 10th.

All other regions and autonomous provinces are already under yellow zone restrictions, meaning lighter restrictions are in place in almost all of Italy.

The latest weekly health data report.on Friday showed a slight rise in the national average reproduction rate (Rt number), though overall the weekly average incidence rate of new cases continues to fall.

Six regions currently remain under tighter coronavirus rules due to higher contagion risk levels locally.

However most regions are now designated lower-risk ‘yellow’ zones, where many restrictions on business openings and movement have been eased.

Italy began gradually relaxing the rules in yellow zones from Monday April 26th under the most recent emergency decree.

Italy’s national coronavirus Rt reproduction number has risen back to 0.89, from 0.85 the week before and 0.81 before that, according to the latest health data reported on Friday by the Health Ministry and Higher Health Institute (ISS).

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Restrictions could be re-imposed if the value reaches 1, which means the overall infection rate is rising.

There are still significant regional variations in the infection rate, the report confirmed.

The incidence rate is now with 127 cases for every 100,000 inhabitants, down from 146 last week, the report said.

Customers returned to bar terraces in Milan’s Navigli nightlife area at th end of April. Photo: Miguel Medina/AFP

However, Italian health authorities have repeatedly stated that the seven-day average incidence rate needs to fall below 50 cases per 100,000 before infections can be contained.

It won’t be known what impact the initial reopenings have had on the infection rate until data becomes available in mid-May, when further relaxations to the rules are planned.

Meanwhile regional authorities and business groups are pressing the government to speed up plans for reopening.

Many health measures, including those on social distancing and mandatory mask-wearing in public, remain in place nationwide.

It’s expected that the number of new infections will start to drop faster as Italy’s vaccination campaign progresses.

However, Italian authorities don’t expect to have the majority of people in the country vaccinated until autumn, and say that continued health measures are the only way to get numbers down in the meantime.

Italy has given a total of 22.8 million shots as of Friday, and has 6.9 million people fully vaccinated, according to official figures.

There were 10.554 more coronavirus infections reported on Friday, and 207 deaths, the health ministry’s data showed.

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HEALTH

Living in Italy: Five tips to help you survive the local pharmacy

From ear piercings to flu jabs, Italian ‘farmacie’ are among the most useful stores in the country, but they’re also very odd places. Here are our tips on getting through the pharmacy experience.

Living in Italy: Five tips to help you survive the local pharmacy

Italian pharmacies aren’t just stores selling prescription or over-the-counter medicines.

As a customer, you’ll find all sorts of natural remedies, basic health supplies and personal care items on their shelves. 

You’ll also be able to receive basic medical services (for instance, blood pressure checks, Covid tests and flu jabs) and some non-health-related ones (like getting your ears pierced!) in most branches. 

READ ALSO: Reader question: Can I still get the flu vaccine in Italy? 

But, while being extremely useful stores, Italian farmacie (pronunciation available here) are also peculiar places and their set of unwritten rules and solidified traditions may well throw off newcomers.. 

So here are five tips that might help you complete your first expeditions to your local pharmacy without making a fool of yourself.

1 – Decipher your doctor’s scribbles before your trip

Much like some of their foreign colleagues, Italian GPs have a penchant for writing prescriptions that no one else is actually able to read. 

We might never find out why doctors seem so intent on making ancient hieroglyphs fashionable again, but their calligraphic efforts will surely get in the way of you trying to buy whatever medicine you need to survive. 

To avoid hiccups, make sure you know exactly what you need to get. If in doubt, reach out to your GP to confirm.

Don’t rely on pharmacists being able to figure out your doctor’s handwriting because they often have no clue either.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How to make a doctor’s appointment in Italy 

Pharmacy in Codogno, near Milan

In most small towns and rural areas local pharmacies have very ‘thin’ opening hours. Photo by Miguel MEDINA / AFP

2 – Double-check the pharmacy’s opening times

If you’re from the UK or the US, you might be used to pharmacies being open from 8am to 10pm on weekdays and having slightly reduced opening times over the weekend. 

You can forget about that in Italy. In big cities, most pharmacies will shut no later than 8pm on weekdays and will be closed on either Saturdays or Sundays.

READ ALSO: Coughs, colds and flu: What to say and do if you fall sick in Italy 

As for small towns or villages, opening times will have a nice Middle Ages vibe to them, with local stores remaining shut on weekends and keeping their doors open from 9am to 12.30pm and then from 3.30pm to 7.30pm on weekdays. 

So always check your local pharmacy’s hours before leaving home and, should their times not be available online, call them up. An awkward phone conversation with the pharmacist is still preferable to a wasted trip.

3 – Get the ‘numerino

Some Italian pharmacies have a ticket-dispensing machine with the aim of regulating the queue – a concept which is still foreign to many across the country.

All customers are expected to get a numbered paper ticket (the famed ‘numerino’) from the above machine and wait for their number to be called to walk up to the pharmacist’s desk. 

Now, the law of the land categorically prohibits customers from getting within a five-metre radius of the desk without a numerino

Also, trying to break that rule may result in a number of disdainful sideways glances from local customers.

4 – You cannot escape the in-store conversations, so embrace them 

Pharmacies aren’t just stores. They’re a cornerstone of Italian life and locals do a good deal of socialising on the premises. 

After all, the waiting times are often a bit dispiriting, so how can you blame them for killing the time?

Small pharmacy in Italy

Pharmacies are an essential part of Italian life and culture. Photo by Marco SABADIN / AFP

You might think that locals won’t want to talk to you because you’re a foreigner or don’t know the language too well, but you’ll marvel at how chatty some are.

While chit-chat might not be your cup of tea, talking with locals might help you improve your Italian, so it’s worth a shot.

5 – “Vuoi scaricarlo?”

The pharmacist finally gets you what you need and you’re now thinking that your mission is over. Well, not yet.

Before charging you for the items in question, the pharmacist will ask you whether you’d like to ‘scaricarli’ (literally, ‘offload them’) or not, which, no matter how good your Italian is, will not make any sense to you.

What the pharmacist is actually asking you is whether you want to link the purchase to your codice fiscale (tax code). 

READ ALSO: Codice fiscale: How to get your Italian tax code (and why you need one)   

That’s because Italy offers residents a 19-percent discount on some health-related expenses, which can be claimed through one’s annual income declaration (dichiarazione dei redditi) by attaching the receipts of all the eligible payments.

Whether you want to scaricare or not, this is the last obstacle before you can make your way back home.

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