Covid-19: All of Italy expected to be under ‘white zone’ rules by mid-June

Four more regions will turn 'white' next week, the Italian health ministry confirmed on Friday, with the rest of the country expected to follow later this month.

Covid-19: All of Italy expected to be under 'white zone' rules by mid-June
People on the Ponte della Paglia bridge in Venice on June 3rd. Photo: ANDREA PATTARO / AFP

Based on the latest health data, the Italian regions of Abruzzo, Liguria, Umbria and Veneto will be in the low-risk white zone from Monday June 7th, the health ministry stated.

The latest weekly coronavirus monitoring report from the health ministry and the Higher Health Institute (ISS) on Friday confirmed Italy’s coronavirus numbers had continued to fall for another week.

READ ALSO: What changes about life in Italy in June 2021?

The national average Rt reproduction number had dropped to 0.68 from 0.72, it said.

“Abruzzo, Umbria, Liguria and Veneto for the third consecutive week have under 50 cases per 100 thousand inhabitants and from Monday they are in the white zone,” said ISS head Silvio Brusaferro at a press conference.

“If the trend continues like this, by the second week of June all of Italy will be in the white zone,” he added.

He said there had been an “immediate” fall in the contagion curve and the number of cases after the vaccine rollout gathered pace recently.

CHARTS: How many people has Italy vaccinated so far?

Most, if not all, regions have long been expected to be downgraded this month if the situation continues to improve.

The regions moving into white zones will be able to drop the last remaining restrictions, and reopen indoor restaurants and bars, fairs, theme parks, conferences and indoor swimming pools and hold weddings earlier than planned under the national roadmap for reopening.

So far, only mask-wearing and social distancing rules must remain in place in white zones, the health minister has said.

For now, nightclubs and discos are still suspended and it is not known if or when Italy may relax the rules on wearing masks outdoors.

The regions of Friuli-Venezia-Giulia, Molise and Sardinia were the first to be placed under white zone rules earlier this week.

On Tuesday, cafes and restaurants in all regions were allowed to serve customers indoors once again and sports stadiums reopened to the public as rules were eased further.

Italy on Friday reported 2,557 new cases and 73 more victims. The test positivity rate was 1.1%.

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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].”