Covid-19: What changes as all of Italy moves into the low-restriction ‘white zone’ on Monday?

All regions of Italy are allowed to ease the health measures further from Monday, as the whole country was placed in the 'white' zone for the first time.

Covid-19: What changes as all of Italy moves into the low-restriction 'white zone' on Monday?
Photo: Miguel MEDINA / AFP

The Italian health ministry confirmed on Friday that the last region still classed as a ‘yellow’ zone, Valle d’Aosta, would join the rest of the country in the low-risk ‘white’ tier on Monday June 28th, meaning most rules can be relaxed.

“With the decree I just signed, all of Italy will be ‘white’ starting from Monday. It is an encouraging result, but we still need caution and prudence,” Health Minister Roberto Speranza wrote in a Facebook post.

Urging people to remain vigilant, the minister added: “the battle has not yet been won.”

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

In practical terms, the difference will be quite small as restrictions were already low across the country,

The main difference when moving from ‘yellow’ to ‘white’ is an end to the limit on the number of guests you can have at home (which is currently four in yellow zones, not including children).

As the government announced earlier this week,.outdoor mask-wearing rules can also be eased in ‘white’ zones from Monday – welcome news across the country where an ongoing heatwave is expected to push temperatures past 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) again in some southern areas this week.

However the mask-wearing requirement has not been removed completely.

Photo: Miguel MEDINA / AFP

Most other measures have already been relaxed, including the midnight-5am curfew, which was scrapped nationwide on Monday June 21st under the national timeline for reopening.

Social distancing rules remain in place in ‘white’ zones, as does a ban on parties and large gatherings at home.

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

The easing of rules comes after a long period beginning in November of full or partial regional lockdowns across the country.

The entire country was made a “yellow zone” last month, which brought more freedoms but maintained the overnight curfew and kept many limits on business opening hours in place.

While all regions are currently now in the lowest-risk category, the country remains under its four-tiered system of restrictions.

If the number of infections rises again, the health ministry can reinstate the ‘yellow’ zone or higher-risk ‘orange’ and ‘red’ zones, all of which have varying sets of rules.

READ ALSO: Italian health experts warn about Delta variant as vaccine progress slows

The Higher Health Institute (ISS) said in a report on Friday the Delta variant now accounted for more than 16% of new cases in Italy, and warned that this variant was more contagious and had the potential to partially elude vaccines.

The ISS report, along with others from Italian health experts and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) this week, called for more sequencing and renewed efforts to increase vaccination coverage in order to prevent the country’s health situation from worsening.

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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.”