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COVID-19 RULES

Italy extends Covid-19 state of emergency until December 21st

The Italian government has signed off on an extension to the country's state of emergency, keeping it in place until at the end of 2021. Here's what that means in practice.

Italy extends Covid-19 state of emergency until December 21st
Photo : Piero Cruciatti/AFP

With a return to a steadily rising rate of coronavirus cases after weeks of decline, Italy has prolonged the national state of emergency once more.

The latest extension was included in a new decree announced on Thursday evening, which also contains new risk parameters for Italy’s regions and amendments to the ‘green pass’ scheme.

READ ALSO: Italy makes Covid ‘green pass’ mandatory for restaurants, gyms, cinemas and more from August

The state of emergency has already been in place for 18 months. It was first introduced on January 31st 2020, shortly after the first cases of coronavirus were detected in tourists visiting Rome.

Initially, it had a timescale of six months but it has been rolled over several times in accordance with the continuing emergency Covid-19 situation.

What does this mean?

Known as the stato di emergenza in Italian, the declaration of emergency status gives moe power to the government and regional authorities to make changes rapidly in response to a constantly changing health situation.

It’s not the same thing as an emergency decree, or DPCM (Decreto del Presidente del Consiglio dei Ministri, legislation issued directly by the prime minister) but rather the condition needed for these emergency laws to be passed.

The Council of Ministers (Italy’s government cabinet), on the proposal of the Prime Minister, has the power to enforce it in agreement with the governors and presidents of autonomous provinces.

Making face masks mandatory, for example, would have normally required a considerable parliamentary process.

The state of emergency has a maximum time limit of validity until January 2022 – the date that marks the two-year limit permitted for this measure.

READ ALSO: What is Italy’s digital ‘green pass’ used for and how do you get it?

Italian law states that a national state of emergency cannot be declared for more than 12 months in one go, and can only be extended for a maximum of 12 months beyond that, making two years in total.

So far, the state of emergency has been extended by between two and six months each time.

Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi continues to favour a more cautious approach to easing restrictions, drawing on the advice of the Covid-19 emergency commission and scientific advisory panel (the Comitato tecnico scientifico or CTS) – which was set up under the state of emergency rules early on in the pandemic.

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COVID-19 RULES

Italy allows suspended anti-vax doctors to return to work

Italian heathcare staff suspended over their refusal to be vaccinated against Covid-19 can now return to work, Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni confirmed on Monday.

Italy allows suspended anti-vax doctors to return to work

Italy become the first country in Europe to make it obligatory for healthcare workers to be vaccinated, ruling in 2021 that they must have the jab or be transferred to other roles or suspended without pay.

That obligation had been set to expire in December, but was brought forward to Tuesday due to “a shortage of medical and health personnel”, Health Minister Orazio Schillaci said.

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

Italy was the first European country to be hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic in early 2020, and has since registered nearly 180,000 deaths.

Schillaci first announced the plan to scrap the rule on Friday in a statement saying data showed the virus’ impact on hospitals  “is now limited”.

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”.

Meloni said the move, which has been criticised by the centre-left as a win for anti-vax campaigners, would mean some 4,000 healthcare workers can return to work.

This includes some 1,579 doctors and dentists refusing vaccination, according to records 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) 

Meloni’s post-fascist Brothers of Italy party railed against the way Mario Draghi’s government handled the pandemic, when it was the main opposition party, and she promised to use her first cabinet meetings to mark a clear break in policies with her predecessor.

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