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HEALTH

Italy eases Covid restrictions further on Monday as infection rate drops

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

Italy eases Covid restrictions further on Monday as infection rate drops
Photo: Andreas Solaro/AFP

The regions of Tuscany, Marche, Campania, Calabria, Basilicata, Sicily and the Autonomous Province of Bolzano have been moved from the yellow category, joining the rest of the country in the ‘white zone’.

The only area to remain a ‘yellow zone’ is the northern region of Valle d’Aosta.

Health Minister Roberto Speranza signed off on the changes 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’?

Italy has been reporting around 2,000 new daily infections on average nationwide since June 7th – the lowest figures seen since September 2020.

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.

After a slow start, Italy’s vaccination campaign has picked up speed in recent months and more than a quarter of the population is fully vaccinated as of Monday, official figures showed. 

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TRAVEL NEWS

Covid face mask rule on flights in Europe set to be eased

The mandatory EU-wide mask requirement for air travel is set to be dropped from Monday, May 16th, but airlines may still require passengers to wear masks on some or all flights

Covid face mask rule on flights in Europe set to be eased

Europe-wide facemask rules on flights are set to be ditched as early as next week in light of new recommendations from health and air safety experts.

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) dropped recommendations for mandatory mask-wearing in airports and during flights in updated Covid-19 safety measures for travel issued on Wednesday, May 11th.

The new rules are expected to be rolled out from Monday, May 16th, but airlines may still continue to require the wearing of masks on some or all of flights. And the updated health safety measures still say that wearing a face mask remains one of the best ways to protect against the transmission of the virus.

The joint EASA/ECDC statement reminded travellers that masks may still be required on flights to destinations in certain countries that still require the wearing of masks on public transport and in transport hubs.

It also recommends that vulnerable passengers should continue to wear a face mask regardless of the rules, ideally an FFP2/N95/KN95 type mask which offers a higher level of protection than a standard surgical mask.

“From next week, face masks will no longer need to be mandatory in air travel in all cases, broadly aligning with the changing requirements of national authorities across Europe for public transport,” EASA executive director Patrick Ky said in the statement. 

“For passengers and air crews, this is a big step forward in the normalisation of air travel. Passengers should however behave responsibly and respect the choices of others around them. And a passenger who is coughing and sneezing should strongly consider wearing a face mask, for the reassurance of those seated nearby.”  

ECDC director Andrea Ammon added: “The development and continuous updates to the Aviation Health Safety Protocol in light of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic have given travellers and aviation personnel better knowledge of the risks of transmission of SARS-CoV-2 and its variants. 

“While risks do remain, we have seen that non-pharmaceutical interventions and vaccines have allowed our lives to begin to return to normal. 

“While mandatory mask-wearing in all situations is no longer recommended, it is important to be mindful that together with physical distancing and good hand hygiene it is one of the best methods of reducing transmission. 

“The rules and requirements of departure and destination states should be respected and applied consistently, and travel operators should take care to inform passengers of any required measures in a timely manner.”

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