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All Italian regions but one to drop Covid restrictions from Monday as infection rate falls further

Italy’s health ministry has allowed all regions except for Valle d'Aosta to drop most remaining coronavirus-related rules from Monday following this week's health data review.

All Italian regions but one to drop Covid restrictions from Monday as infection rate falls further
Photo: Vincenzo Pinto/AFP

Health Minister Roberto Speranza on Friday signed an ordinance putting the whole country, except for the northern region of Valle d’Aosta, into the low-restriction ‘white zone’.

The ministry reviewed regional restrictions following the findings of the latest health data report published on Friday, which showed that the rate of new infections in the country remained low.

EXPLAINED: What are the rules in Italy’s coronavirus ‘white zones’?

The national average Rt reproduction number, which shows the rate of new infections, was steady at 0.69 (it was 0.68 last week).

Italy’s national average 7-day incidence rate had fallen from 25 cases per 100,000 inhabitants to 16.

To be placed in the low-restriction white zone, regions must have registered fewer than 50 coronavirus cases per 100,000 inhabitants for three weeks consecutively.

The classification means regional authorities are allowed to drop most of the remaining coronavirus restrictions 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. House parties and large gatherings are also forbidden.

READ ALSO: Delta variant in Italy: What’s the risk of another Covid-19 surge?

For now, nightclubs and discos are still waiting for a firm date for reopening, and it is not known if or when Italy may relax the rules on wearing masks outdoors.

Italy’s evening curfew – which is not applicable in white zones – currently starts at midnight and will be scrapped completely on June 21st.

The final set of rules in each region depends on the local authority, as each is free to impose stricter rules than those set by the national government.

The Italian health ministry on Friday meanwhile announced it will reinstate a mandatory quarantine requirement for all UK arrivals from Monday amid concerns about the spread of the Delta coronavirus variant.

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COVID-19 RULES

Is Italy’s government planning to scrap all Covid measures?

The new Italian government has announced the end of some remaining Covid health measures. Here's a look at what will - and won't - change.

Is Italy’s government planning to scrap all Covid measures?

Few Covid-related restrictions remain in Italy today, six months after the nationwide ‘state of emergency’ ended.

The previous government had kept only a handful of precautionary measures in place – which the new government, led by Giorgia Meloni, must now decide whether or not to keep.

The cabinet is holding a meeting on Monday and will issue a decree this week detailing any changes to the health measures.

Many expect the government to scrap all measures entirely by the end of the year, after Meloni and her party criticised the way Mario Draghi’s administration handled the pandemic throughout its tenure. 

Meloni clearly stated in her first address to parliament last Tuesday that “we will not replicate the model of the previous government” when it comes to managing Covid.

READ ALSO: Five key points from Meloni’s first speech as new Italian PM

While she acknowledged that Italy could be hit by another Covid wave, or another pandemic, she did not say how her government would deal with it.

Meanwhile, new health minister Orazio Schillaci issued a statement on Friday confirming the end of several existing measures, saying he “considers it appropriate to initiate a progressive return to normality in activities and behaviour”.

Workplace ban for unvaccinated medical staff

Schillaci confirmed that the ministry will allow doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals to return to work after being suspended because they refuse to get vaccinated against Covid-19.

Those who refuse vaccination will be “reintegrated” into the workforce before the rule expires at the end of this year, as part of what the minister called a “gradual return to normality”.

They will be allowed to return “in light of the worrying shortage of medical and health personnel” and “considering the trend of Covid infections”, the statement said.

Fines issued to healthcare staff aged over 50 who refused vaccination would also be cancelled, it added.

There were some 1,579 doctors and dentists refusing vaccination at the end of October, representing 0.3 percent of all those registered with Italy’s National Federation of the Orders of Physicians, Surgeons and Dentists (Fnomceo) 

Daily Covid data reports

Schillaci also confirmed in the statement that the health ministry will no longer release daily updates on Covid-19 contagion rates, hospital cases and deaths, saying this would be replaced by a weekly update.

It said it would however make the data available at any time to relevant authorities.

Mask requirement in hospitals to stay?

The requirement to wear face masks in hospitals, care homes and other healthcare facilities expires on Monday, October 31st.

At a meeting on the same day the government is expected to decide whether to extend the measure.

READ ALSO: What can we expect from Italy’s new government?

While the government had looked at scrapping the requirement, it reportedly changed stance at the last minute on Monday after facing heavy criticism from health experts.

Media reports published while the meeting was in progress on Monday said government sources had indicated the measure would in fact be extended.

Confirmation is expected to come later on Monday.

Italy’s face mask rules in care homes and healthcare facilities are up for renewal. Photo by Thierry ZOCCOLAN / AFP

‘Green pass’ health certificate

There is no indication that the new government plans to bring back any requirements to show a ‘green pass’: the digital certificate proving vaccination against or recent recovery from Covid, or a negative test result.

The pass is currently only required for entry to healthcare facilities and care homes, and this is expected to remain the case.

‘Dismantling the measures’

Some of the confirmed changes were strongly criticised by Italy’s most prominent healthcare experts.

Head of the Gimbe association for evidence-based medicine, Nino Cartabellotta, said the focus on cancelling fines for unvaccinated healthcare workers was “irrelevant from a health point of view .. but unscientific and highly diseducative”.

He told news agency Ansa it was “absolutely legitimate” for a new government to discontinue the previous administration’s measures, but that this “must also be used to improve everything that the previous government was unable to do”.

The government should prioritise “more analytical collection of data on hospitalised patients, investments in ventilation systems for enclosed rooms … accelerating coverage with vaccine boosters,” he said.

However, the plan at the moment appeared to be “a mere dismantling of the measures in place,” he said, “in the illusory attempt to consign the pandemic to oblivion, ignoring the recommendations of the international public health authorities”.

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