Will Italy relax the Covid mask-wearing rules this summer?

As Italy moves toward the next phase of reopening and relaxing its coronavirus rules, the government is looking at whether face masks should remain mandatory in outdoor public places.

Will Italy relax the Covid mask-wearing rules this summer?
Mask rules have been eased in Italy except for on public transport - though they remain recommended in crowded places. Photo by Vincenzo PINTO / AFP

Italy has been one of the most pro-mask countries in Europe since the start of the pandemic, but the Italian government and its panel of scientific experts are now weighing up when to drop, or at least relax, the current requirements.

If you live in Italy, grabbing your mascherina before heading out is probably second nature by now. 

Wearing a face mask in busy public areas has been mandatory since May 2020, and the rules were tightened up again in October 2020 to require mask-wearing at all times in public, indoors or outdoors. The rules are backed up with steep fines for non-compliance.

Photo by Alberto PIZZOLI / AFP

There has been little resistance to, or pressure to remove, the mask-wearing rules in Italy, where in the early days of the pandemic many people wore face masks in the street voluntarily months before requirements were brought in.

Though after months of sweaty mouths and steamed-up glasses, some people are now wondering when Italy’s vaccination campaign will progress to the point where masks are no longer deemed necessary.

Not least international tourists, for whom the prospect of having to wear a mask in the summer heat while strolling along the lungomare is probably not an enticing one.

READ MORE: What will Italy’s coronavirus rules be for summer 2021?

So far, the Italian government has stressed that safety precautions must stay in place this summer, as it doesn’t expect to have the majority of the population fully vaccinated until autumn.

But as the government puts the final touches to its latest round of rule changes, set to come into force as soon as next week, there are suggestions that it could be time to soften the requirement to wear masks outdoors at all times.

Photo by Alberto PIZZOLI / AFP

Health Undersecretary Pierpaolo Sileri said on Monday that people should no longer have to wear masks outside once 30 million people, approximately half of the Italian population, have been vaccinated against Covid-19.

“I agree with the hypothesis (of relaxing the rule on wearing facemasks outdoors) when 30 million people are vaccinated with at least one dose of a vaccine,” Sileri said in an interview with Radio 24.

Italy will reach that threshold in mid-June, he estimated this week.

“I think it is sensible to put the mask in your pocket outdoors where there are no crowds, and to put it back on your face when there are gatherings and a risk (of contagion)”. 

The Italian health ministry however has not made any official statement on when or if the rule may be changed.

One thing looks certain however: masks are set to remain mandatory at least in indoor public places in Italy for a while longer yet.

Member comments

  1. The CDC has admitted it “miscalculated” the transmission rate of the virus outdoors. Only a slight “miscalculation” though…it’s actually less than 1% and they claimed 10% based on faulty data. And what about the Stanford peer-reviewed paper that cites the physical and psychological dangers of prolonged mask wearing?

  2. The transmission rate outdoors is 0.1%, far less than the chance of being killed in the car accident in the US (1%) which makes wearing masks outside totally absurd. It’s astounding so many people follow this rule, especially as the authorities have mostly giving up fining those who don’t wear them.

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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”.