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

Which parts of Italy could be declared Covid risk zones in August?
Northern Sardinia. Photo by 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.

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’.

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

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.

Member comments

  1. Again, the legal owners of those guns (which is also the majority of the 393 million guns) are a tiny fraction of the deaths. I would submit that if you lowered the autobahn speed limit to 50km/h almost all of those 409 deaths wouldn’t have happened. If you lowered every highway/freeway to 30 mph around the world you’d save millions of lives over a relatively short period of time. Also, you’d have the added benefit of reducing greenhouse gases because driving faster burns more gas. Win win win.

    Where I am going with everything I’ve posted is to show a different way of thinking about the risks we take as a society, such as driving. I’m clearly more comfortable with risks. That’s why the gun issue doesn’t bother me. The problem is poverty, drug wars, inner city violence, mental health, fatherlessness. Address those issues and gun violence would drop, even with 393 million guns.

    Not allowing relatives to visit a dying person is a not a sensible containment limitation.

    If a strain emerges that is not controlled by vaccines the chances are that it will emerge in a country that is heavily populated and behind on vaccines. Such as the “delta” variant which emerged in India. It won’t be coming out of Europe or the US.

    You’re right though, nuff said. I understand your position more clearly. I hope you understand mine as well.

  2. Thanks again Brad,
    I am sorry but I don’t see where you are going with this. I see in your arguments some sweeping generalisations about gun crime, wealthy people’s habits, about who is dying of COVID compared with the ‘flu, that “flattening the curve” was all about deaths … ? Additionally, you make suggestions based on what you believe is my thinking. Actually, as I live on a busy road with a kindergarten on the other side, I would love to see more 30km/h limits, never mind 50km/h, as is happening in France, see them enforced (which is not the case on my road) and restrictions on autobahn speed, not only for needless road tragedies but also for climate protection reasons. However, that is not the point, what is the point is the assumptions being made about my thinking and then the spin-off arguments.
    I do not have personal experience of people in hospital dying alone because of COVID and I am sorry that you do. However, isn’t that the point of “sensible” containment limitations, to try to prevent these kind of occurrences and not to gamble that we won’t produce a dominant strain that returns us to those bad times?
    Anyway, ’nuff said. Thank you for the stimulating discussion and good luck to you!

  3. The last stat I could find for the Autobahn was 409 deaths in 2017, so for a fair comparison the 2017 deaths by gun in the US was 39,773.

    I submit passing a law that says the ownership of 393 million guns, in a country with a population of 333,177,837, (the US), is the definition of Russian Roulette, with a touch of insanity.

  4. I would submit that passing a law that says you can drive as fast as you want on stretches of autobahn is much closer to the definition of Russian Roulette.

  5. The vast majority of gun deaths in the US occur with illegally acquired guns in the inner cities. Of the rest, mental health plays a very large part. I wonder if the negative mental health repercussions of lockdown might have an effect on this. Hmmm

    Again, I think you too easily write off the negative aspects of this for everyday people. Interesting how in many ways COVID has been a huge benefit to the wealthy. They can invest in crashed stock markets. Apparently they can have large maskless parties. They can travel at will and get to enjoy places like Rome without the unwashed masses clogging up the famous sights. Again I know of two people in their 80’s with dementia, got covid and died confused and alone. That’s traumatic for the person and their family. Serious trauma.

    A very very small number of people dying with covid are young and fit. I mean less than the numbers that would die with the regular flu.

  6. The problem with covid is not that it is highly transmissible. The problem is that it brings a higher than normal death rate. The seasonal cold is highly transmissible but isn’t a problem because it doesn’t carry the same death rate. The problem is the deaths.

    Driving is a good analogy because it kills innocent people who would otherwise be alive if the speed limits were kept at 50 km/h. Forget about the autobahn. Just make 50 km the limit for every single country in the world. It seems you aren’t ok with that. Probably because there’s something about driving faster you feel is a benefit. Well, there’s something about getting rid of these restrictions that I feel is a benefit. Especially for Europe and the US where deaths are relatively low compared to the beginning of the pandemic.

    Why not let everyone live their lives the way they want to? You separate alcoholism and depression because they are not transmissible. That implies that they are an internal problem with that individual person. I would submit that people suffering from depression and alcoholism would benefit from being able to live a normal life. I know of at least two people who were in their 80’s and died with covid who were not allowed to see any family when they were dying, and I don’t know that many people. Again, I think you too easily write off the negative repercussions of restrictions, especially when you admit that it’s possible you might be doing it all just to make some people feel better.

    I am fine with countries that are under vaccinated continuing to block travel and have restrictions. It’s just not the case for the US, UK and Europe.

    It is interesting how at the beginning of the pandemic the problem was the deaths. We needed to “flatten the curve” to protect hospitals. Now because deaths are low and cases are high it is all about the cases. When cases are low again will we justify restrictions because of deaths again? How many deaths are acceptable to you? Will you wear a mask even if one person a day is dying from covid?

  7. Well said Mark. Germany has done an amazing job with managing the country during the pandemic, especially when looking at the the larger population of Germany compared to the UK.

  8. I am a huge fan of Merkel and it will be incredibly sad when she call it quits, not just for Germany but for the world.

  9. Thanks Kris,
    It has not been exemplary, especially because of the different approaches of the federal states, which has caused confusion at times; however, I can say, hand on heart, at least they have tried to balance openness with responsible containment measures. Chancellor Angela Merkel has been a rock and it is difficult to imagine anyone trying out her shoe size, particularly Laughing-Boy Laschet!

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