Covid-19: Italy passes 50 million vaccinations milestone

Italy passed the symbolic mark of 50 million Covid-19 vaccines administered on Monday, the same day the whole country became a low-risk 'white zone' and rules on wearing masks outdoors were relaxed.

Covid-19: Italy passes 50 million vaccinations milestone
Photo: Marco Bertorello/AFP

As of Tuesday, 33% of the Italian population is fully vaccinated against Covid-19.

“It’s a very significant figure,” Health Minister Roberto Speranza said, according to news agency Ansa.

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

Speranza added that “the real weapon we have against the rise of the variants is the vaccination campaign.”

Speaking earlier on Monday, the minister also said Italy’s goal was to “vaccinate all Italians who want it with the first dose by the end of the summer”.

He added that masks, which no longer need to be worn outdoors except for in crowded areas, remained “essential”.

Italian health experts however have warned that the government can’t rely only on vaccines and mask-wearing to keep the spread of the Delta variant in check.

Italy’s Higher Health Institute (ISS) said in a report on Friday the Delta variant, which originated in India and has driven a rise in infections in the UK, now accounted for more than 16% of new cases in Italy. Other studies put the figure at 32% last week.

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

The report warned that this variant was more contagious and had the potential to partially elude vaccines. 

The ISS, independent health watchdog GIMBE, and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) last week called for more testing, sequencing and tracing in Italy.

The reports also called for renewed efforts to increase vaccination coverage, after the number of vaccines administered last week fell slightly (-4.5%) for the first time, according to data analysis from GIMBE.

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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.”