Italy to drop outdoor mask-wearing rule from June 28th

As coronavirus infection rates continue to fall in Italy, health authorities said they will relax the current requirement to wear masks at all times outside from June 28th.

Italy to drop outdoor mask-wearing rule from June 28th
Photo: Marco Bertorello/AFP

Italy has required face masks to be worn outdoors as well as indoors since October 2020, and as temperatures soar across the country many people will be relieved to hear that these rules are about to be relaxed.

Masks will no longer be compulsory at all times outdoors in Italy from Monday June 28th, the health minister said on Monday.

READ ALSO: When do you still need to wear a mask in Italy?

The lifting of the mask requirement will come into effect in regions labelled “white” under Italy’s classification system, Health Minister Roberto Speranza wrote on social media.

This classification already covers all Italian regions except the Aosta Valley in the northwest, and is expected to apply to the whole country from the 28th.

Speranza’s announcement came on advice from Italy’s Comitato Tecnico Scientifico (CTS) scientific advisory panel, which said people should still have masks at hand for events with higher risk of spreading the virus like large gatherings.

The review came as Italy allowed more regions to drop most coronavirus restrictions on Monday, after health data showed the infection rate was still falling nationwide.

The Italian rules currently state that masks must be worn at all times when out of the house, indoors and outdoors, “except in cases where, due to the characteristics of the place or the circumstances, isolation is continuously guaranteed.”

Social distancing is expected to remain in place and people will still be required to carry masks with them, according to media reports, as concerns remain high in Italy about a potential rise in new coronavirus cases fuelled by the Delta variant.

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

While few cases caused by the new variant have been confirmed in Italy so far, the country analyses a relatively small number of tests to identify the virus strain behind infections.

Italy’s health authorities will increase the number of tests being sequenced from this week in order to help identify potential outbreaks, news agency Ansa reports.

Amid concern about new variants, Italy has from Monday extended a ban on travel from India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka and brought in a five-day quarantine requirement for arrivals from the UK.

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

Italy has fully vaccinated 30 percent of the population over 12 years old as of Tuesday, official figures show.

In total, more than 46 million vaccine doses have been administered in Italy, though health authorities warn that one dose may not offer sufficient protection from Delta and other variants.

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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].”