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Which parts of Italy could be declared Covid risk zones in August?

The Local Italy
The Local Italy - [email protected]
Which parts of Italy could be declared Covid risk zones in August?
Photo: Andreas Solaro/AFP

With Italy's peak summer season well underway, some regions may lose their low-risk 'white zone' status this month amid a worsening Covid-19 health situation - while some localised 'red zones' have already been declared. Here are the latest indications on which regions could face tighter restrictions based on health data.

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Two Italian regions are at risk of moving into a low-moderate risk 'yellow zone' in the coming weeks, according to the latest government figures.

The islands of Sardinia and Sicily have both recorded rates of infections and hospitalisations which approach the threshold for new restrictions to be imposed.

Reader question: What happens if I test positive for Covid-19 while visiting Italy?

Infections are thought to be soaring on the popular holiday islands, with large number of visitors from Italy and abroad travelling there for summer holidays.

While Sardinia had planned to increase health checks on tourists and enforce mandatory testing on arrival this summer, controls have reportedly been lowered instead as the island's services are diverted to fighting wildfires all across the region.

According to Agenas (The National Agency for Health Services) data, Sardinia now has the highest incidence of weekly cases per 100,000 inhabitants of any Italian region, reaching 142 - approaching the maximum limit of 150 necessary to remain in the low-restriction 'white zone'.

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The Italian government changed the risk criteria in May, affecting how and when a region moves into a higher tier and the rules that follow.

Under the new parameters, a region will move from 'white' to a 'yellow' zone if the following thresholds are reached at the same time:

  • The incidence of weekly cases of infection per 100,000 inhabitants is between 50 and 150.
  • The occupancy rate of intensive care units exceeds 10 percent.
  • Occupancy reaches 15 percent in the case of general hospital wards.

Sardinia has already exceeded two of these three parameters for leaving the white zone and would therefore be likely to be the first region to have health measures reimposed.

The island's incidence rate is over 100 cases per 100,000 inhabitants and the occupancy rate in intensive care is 11 percent.

In fact, according to Agenas (The National Agency for Health Services) data, Sardinia has the worst incidence of weekly cases per 100,000 inhabitants of any Italian region, reaching 142.03.

How Sardinia's incident rate is increasing on a weekly basis. Source: Agenas

Sicily could also lose its 'white zone' status this month, as the region has reached 14 percent occupancy of beds - just one point below the 15 percent threshold.

Meanwhile in intensive care, Sicily has recorded 7.1 percent occupancy.

It has also exceeded the threshold of 50 infections per 100,000 inhabitants by registering over 104.55 Covid-19 cases.

The trends mean that these islands could move into a 'yellow zone' within 10-17 days, claimed Giovanni Sebastiani from the Computation of the National Research Council (CNR).

Although not meeting all three parameters to lose 'white zone' status, several other regions are also recording higher incidence rates, with Tuscany following Sardinia and Sicily at 119.73 - up from 94.5 the week before.

Italy's overall increasing incidence rate - not as steep as some individual regions. Source: Agenas

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Another 11 regions have between 50 and 100 cases per 100,000 inhabitants, including Basilicata, Calabria, Campania, Emilia Romagna, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Lazio, Liguria, Marche, Umbria, Valle d'Aosta and Veneto.

What happens if a region is declared a 'yellow zone'?

Should any region move from white to yellow, the main difference in rules is the obligation to wear a face mask in all public places, both indoors and outdoors.

There would also be a return to limits on how many people can be seated together in restaurants and on seating indoors.

There is no curfew, since that was dropped nationwide in June.

More severe restrictions can also be decided from town to town, as the Italian authorities have the right to enforce tighter measures on a local level in order to contain the spread of the virus and protest local health services.

The first localised 'red zones' for months were declared in the southern region of Calabria in recent days, meaning the toughest restrictions apply in two municipalities.

The acting president of the Calabria Region, Nino Spirlì, signed an order which came into force on August 7th for the towns of Africo and Bagaladi, which remains in place until and August 17th and 18th respectively.

He noted "an exponential growth of infections among the resident population, which determines a high incidence, with 52 confirmed active cases of which 92 percent recorded in the last 6 days, among a population of about 3,300 inhabitants".

Photo: Filippo Monteforte/AFP

Calabria has a low incidence rate per inhabitant, but the high rate of occupancy of beds for Covid patients prompted the regional authorities to establish fresh restrictions.

The rate is 57.1 per 100,000, while the occupancy rate for hospital beds is already 11 percent.

Calabria has been quick to impose restrictions as its regional health infrastructure is particularly fragile. The poorest region in Italy, it has suffered long-running problems with a dysfunctonal healthcare system and lack of funding caused or worsened by mafia infiltration and corruption in local government. 

Further restrictions could be imposed locally in future in any part of the country that sees a spike in cases putting strain on its health services.

All regions and autonomous provinces are currently classified as having a moderate epidemic risk, according to the latest weekly health data.

"The estimated transmissibility on hospitalised cases alone is above the epidemic threshold," stated the report.

Italian authorities pointed to the Delta variant as having significant impact on the latest figures, describing it as "largely prevalent in Italy".

The report added that the variant is associated with an increase in the number of new cases of infection, even if vaccination coverage is high.

The Italian government made its 'green pass' health certificate mandatory from August 6th at many cultural and leisure venues as part of efforts to control the spread of the virus and avoid the need for new restrictions or limitations on businesses during the peak summer season.

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Comments (6)

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Anonymous 2021/08/15 23:08
Thanks Brad, Yes it is risk/reward and, therefore, a political decision how much risk a government is prepared to accept for the perceived rewards. We know that with the current vaccines the death rate is much lower, and, of course, COVID has already killed a large number of those people who would otherwise feature now. The point is that a government that does not implement measures to reduce transmission is playing with fire, it runs the very real risk of producing a variant that beats the vaccine protections we already have in place; please see the recent SAGE reports on this subject. Yes, it may happen anyway but, by encouraging a virus to spread in crowded venues, it is much more likely to occur. My problem with allowing people to make up their own minds in this area is that many, particularly the risk-taking young, will enjoy the clubbing and concerts (and who can blame them!) and not register what they may be inadvertently brewing there. In Germany, unlike the UK, I am happy to note that we are not prepared to take this risk, as evidenced by the recent COVID planning meeting of the federation's prime ministers: measures will continue to be implemented at certain levels of infection, not death, to reduce transmission. Here are the Johns Hopkins figures for 1. Total COVID deaths/100,000 population: Germany 109, UK 196; and 2. Total COVID deaths In the past month: Germany 615, UK 2346 As we used to say, when I was flying fast jets for Her Majesty; hope for the best but PLAN for the worst!
  • Anonymous 2021/08/16 00:20
    Typically "the worst" happens when we're out in the world interacting with other people, driving, living life. To plan for it we could all just stay home forever. Maybe become agoraphobes. Order all we need from Amazon. Then we'd be safe.
  • Anonymous 2021/08/15 23:26
    Also, yes the virus could mutate more, however it looks like those who caught covid and recovered have as good if not better protection as the people vaccinated and we're getting to the point where you add up the people who have got covid and the people with the vaccines and the virus is running out of people to infect. Also, there is no rule that mutations have to be worse. In fact over time typically viruses like this eventually mutate to a less deadly form, something that resembles the regular flu. That's what will probably happen with covid.
  • Anonymous 2021/08/15 23:21
    I appreciate your perspective. I just think that at this point the restrictions aren't justified because the deaths are manageable. I think one thing that you could add to your perspective is the calculation of the negative repercussions that go along with restrictions. Alcoholism has skyrocketed, what are the repercussions health wise for that down the road? Depression has skyrocketed. Small businesses are going out of business, being bought up by the wealthy and large corporations. The last 1.5 years has seen one of the largest upward transfers of wealth from the middle class to upper class in centuries. There are even negative repercussions to sanitization, mask wearing and social distancing. It weakens our immune systems to say nothing of the negative mental health aspect of viewing other human beings not as human beings but as potential vectors for disease. Add all these things to the calculation. Add also the fact that pre covid there were any number of things we could restrict about life to make it safer. Again, the speed limit point is probably the best analogy out there. Everybody should be forced to drive slow, even on the freeway. You just have to add a little more time to your planning. Call it the "new normal." In 20 years when covid is a memory, millions of people's lives will still be being saved because of the reduced driving risks.
Anonymous 2021/08/15 17:13
Hello we are visiting Italy: USA NYC- FCO then to olb ( Sardinia) we are fully vaccinated. Do you think there will be restrictions in Sardinia? Sicily? Roma? We are not going to Florida or anywhere in America where the virus is bad. We all have The Moderna vaccine…
  • Anonymous 2021/08/16 10:46
    Hi, please find an update about the Italian regions at risk of having new resitrictions imposed here: https://www.thelocal.it/20210811/which-parts-of-italy-could-be-declared-covid-risk-zones-in-august/ We'll continue to post further updates about this on the homepage. Thanks for reading, - Clare
Anonymous 2021/08/14 11:35
It's the age-old concept: control those things you can control; influence those things you can influence. While we may not be able to STOP the spread, we can influence the SPEED of transmission, and this must be based on cases, not deaths. As logi quite rightly pointed out, waiting for the death rate is weeks too late: we should always give people the chance to vaccinate as well as reduce the chances of a mutation appearing that beats our vaccines. Holding up the UK as an example of correct behaviour is laughable: if there were a league table showing where the deadly mutation is most likely to form, the UK would be in the "top ten" owing to "Trump Jr." and his lackeys!
  • Anonymous 2021/08/15 19:52
    By the way, the scenario I laid out for the UK from the WHO's chart is exactly the same for every country.
  • Anonymous 2021/08/15 19:49
    Here is what the WHO's own chart is showing for the UK. On the week of 5th July 2021 there were 210,000 new cases. Three weeks after that there were 524 deaths. Now, on the week of 14th December 2020 (pre vaccines) there were about 214,000 new cases. Three weeks after that there 6,298 deaths. In other words, for the same amount of cases there were 12x the number of deaths. This will most likely be the ratio that continues through the winter. Cases will spike but deaths will be much much less than what they were last winter. It's also possible that delta is so prevalent right now that cases might not even spike as much as they did last winter as protection after infection is as good as getting the vaccine if not better and we're getting to the point where the vast majority of the population has either been vaccinated or exposed.
  • Anonymous 2021/08/15 19:40
    Look at the WHO's chart of cases and deaths for the UK. In the first two spikes deaths were extremely high, in the third spike (after vaccines) the deaths are not following the spikes in cases. In fact, the chart shows what usually happens with respiratory diseases. The first spike had a very high death/case ratio because it was novel, we weren't prepared and there were a lot of people who were vulnerable, i.e. old people/overweight people/people with co-morbidities. The second spike showed that people were being less careful about restrictions than they were at the beginning. The cases spiked much higher than at the beginning, as did the deaths, but if you calculate the death/case ratio it was actually a little lower precisely because many of the most at risk were already dead. The third spike, post vaccines, is showing a continuation of that trend. Cases are again going sky high, but notice deaths are not following the way they did before. The actual case/death ratio is much much lower now. More like the normal flu usually is. That is because the most at risk have been vaccinated, or unfortunately didn't make it through the previous two spikes. This is the reality.
  • Anonymous 2021/08/15 19:31
    You can control the speed limits on highways. Why not lower them to 30 mph? In ten years you'd save more lives than covid ever took. Your belief about death rates doesn't follow if you look at the UK. Delta has been saturated there for a couple months. Yes deaths have gone up there but they are nowhere near what they were at the beginning of the pandemic. This situation is the age-old risk/reward conundrum. In reality the risk is much much less now than it was at the beginning of the pandemic. The risk now is along the lines of any number of hundreds of things we could change about how we live that could save lives. In fact each of us could just become agoraphobes and we'd be much much safer in the long run. Even before covid, leaving your house was a risk, it's just that the reward made it worth it.
Anonymous 2021/08/13 00:26
We have just arrived at our home in Lazio (Sabina) having travelled from our home in Warsaw, Poland. WAW to FCO. We are both double jabbed and tested and had assiduously assembled all the documentation, vaccine certificate, passenger locator form etc. Nobody checked anything, either on departure or on arrival. There was an automated overhead temperature checker at FCO but nobody was watching the monitors. In contrast,on the the reverse journey, a month ago, from FCO to WAW we were met at WAW by a line of large, fit young men, armed border guards in combat gear, who checked every document/phone carefully and courteously. Anybody without the requisite docs was funnelled into a testing area, nobody argued... There was no queue as there were about fifteen guards doing the checking. I am no fan of travel restrictions of any kind, or of Polish bureaucracy and current Government, but if the authorities have to take action in a serious public health situation, they may as well do it properly and effectively. Poland 1 Italy 0... but nobody wins if they get ill.
Anonymous 2021/08/11 18:55
It’s interesting how the variants are spreading in Italy even though most uk travellers have decided not to go to Italy due to quarantine restrictions placed on us. So it must be other visitors who are not facing the same restrictions that are bringing it in? as in the UK where cases are in decline. I am due to get married in Italy next month after having to move my wedding twice already, so I am really hoping that Italy gets some control over this situation. I hear cases are growing rapidly in the US so maybe it’s time those travellers had to quarantine too upon arrival to Italy.
  • Anonymous 2021/08/11 22:03
    Maybe the variant is not being transmitted from country to country so much as it is the natural development of a mutating virus. The simple truth is this virus is here to stay. We need to learn to live with it and not shut down again. It will surge, peak and retreat, only to show up in another mutation. This is what respiratory virus's do.
Anonymous 2021/08/11 14:18
The changing of risk zone status should be based on deaths, not cases. This madness is driving people crazy. It's not as though we lived with zero risk before covid. It's not as though the natural state of life on earth is supposed to be zero risk. And, it's not as though there aren't any negative repercussions to covid restrictions.
  • Anonymous 2021/08/12 08:06
    The problem is that deaths follow infection by several weeks, so if measures are taken only in response to deaths, then you will have several weeks of upcoming deaths that are no longer preventable. So the cases today are used to estimate what the deaths will (or would) be weeks from no while it can still be affected.
  • Anonymous 2021/08/11 18:47
    Thank you Brad!!! Why am I not reading this anywhere else - is it that those who think this way are afraid of speaking? It's impossible even to find info on these cases - symptomatic? Asymptomatic? No one "reports" on anything but cases..

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