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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 cuts Covid isolation period as infection rate falls further

The isolation period for symptomatic Covid cases will be cut from seven days to five as Italy’s epidemiological situation improved again, according to an update from the health ministry on Wednesday.

Italy cuts Covid isolation period as infection rate falls further

The Italian health ministry signed off on a new set of Covid isolation rules on Wednesday after months of speculation about whether the isolation period in place all summer could be scrapped.

Under the update, anyone who tests positive for coronavirus and shows symptoms must immediately self-isolate for five days instead of the previous seven, and must test negative – via either a molecular (PCR) or rapid antigen test – at the end of that period, as well as being asymptomatic for two days.

READ ALSO: What are the Covid-19 rules in Italy now?

Should the patient continue to test positive, they must remain in isolation until they get a negative test result. The maximum length of the isolation period was however cut to 14 days, down from 21.

Testing should be carried out at a registered pharmacy or testing centre. The results of home tests are not seen as valid for this purpose.

The isolation requirement applies to everyone including those who are fully vaccinated or recently recovered from Covid.

The changes came in a circular signed on Wednesday by the health ministry’s director of prevention, Gianni Rezza.

The circular, published on Thursday morning, said the rules had been relaxed “as a result of the cessation of the state of emergency” and based on health data analysis by Italy’s Higher Health Institute on August 24th.

The infection rate in Italy has been falling since mid-July.

The number of new infections recorded over the previous 24 hours on Wednesday was 21,817, with a test positivity rate of 13 percent.

Politicians from several parties criticised the decision to keep isolation rules in place, claiming this could affect voter turnout at elections on September 25th.

Italy’s outgoing health minister, Roberto Speranza, said this wasn’t an issue: “Just as with the last elections, there is the option of voting from home, as is done for the infirm,” he told news agency Ansa.

Italy does not currently require visitors from any country to test negative on arrival, as long as they are fully boosted, were recently vaccinated, or have recently recovered from Covid.

Read more about getting tested while in Italy in a separate article here.

For more information about Italy’s Covid health regulations, see the health ministry’s website.

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