Italy’s coronavirus infection rate remains low as Sicily set for return to ‘white’ zone

A health worker holds a vial of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine at the Cremona hospital in Cremona, Lombardy, on December 27, 2020.
A health worker holds a vial of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine at the Cremona hospital in Cremona, Lombardy, on December 27, 2020. PIERO CRUCIATTI / POOL / AFP
Italy’s coronavirus infection rate remains low and stable this week as the country continues to reopen, according to the latest official data from the Ministry of Health.

The ministry’s draft report published on Friday shows that Italy’s Rt rate was 0.83 in the two-week period from September 8th to September 21st, slightly up from 0.82 the preceding week.

Italy had an Rt of 0.85 in the fourteen days between August 25th and September 7th and 0.92 the week before that, previous official reports indicated.

Rt, the effective reproduction number, is the average number of people that one infected person will pass on a virus to – so an Rt of below one means that an infection rate is decreasing.

READ ALSO: Covid crowd restrictions to be relaxed as Italy nears vaccination target

The overall incidence of coronavirus infections across the country continues to decline, at 37 cases per 100,000 inhabitants down from 45 per 100,000 the week before, reports Repubblica.

Numbers of new Covid patient admissions to both intensive care and hospital wards have also continued to decline overall.

The figures bode well for the Italian government’s ambitions to relax coronavirus restrictions in venues across the country in coming weeks.

On Thursday, the government’s scientific advisory panel gave the green light to plans to increase the maximum allowed capacity at stadiums, cinemas and theatres – as long as everyone in the crowd can show the Covid-19 health certificate, or green pass.

Though no date has yet been set for the rule change, it was also announced that sports stadiums will be able to sell tickets up to 75% of their full capacity, compared to 50% at the moment, while cinemas and theatres will be allowed to go up to 80%.

Visitors show their Covid-19 certificates as they pose for a photograph before entering the Colosseum in central Rome on August 6, 2021.

Visitors show their Covid-19 certificates as they pose for a photograph before entering the Colosseum in central Rome on August 6, 2021. Photo: Andreas SOLARO / AFP

There has also been talk of certain restrictions being lifted in schools, with some regional authorities pushing for vaccinated schoolchildren to be exempted from the requirement to quarantine if one of their classmates tests positive for the virus, reports Il Corriere della Sera.

The report, produced jointly by the Ministry of Health and the government’s Higher Institute of Health (ISS), contains good news in particular for Sicily, whose coronavirus incidence numbers and hospital occupation rates have declined in recent days.

The southern island region – currently the only part of Italy under more restricted ‘yellow’ zone rules – now has the figures required to join the rest of the country in the least restricted ‘white’ zone, where it is expected to be placed from Monday.

Under rules introduced by the government in July, a region should be placed in the yellow zone if it has weekly infection rates of 50 new cases per 100 thousand inhabitants, 10 percent or more Covid patient occupancy of intensive care wards, and 15 percent or more Covid patient occupancy of general hospital wards.

Yellow zone restrictions require that masks are worn in all public spaces, including outdoors, and that restaurants may only seat a maximum of four people per table unless the group is cohabiting.

There is no evening curfew, and travel in and out of yellow zones is not restricted.

The central Italian region of Lazio, home to the nation’s capital, is the only area considered by the health ministry and the ISS to be at ‘moderate’ risk of reaching the threshold, with all other regions classed as low risk, according to media reports.

Italy’s government had set a deadline of September 30th for having 80 percent of the population over 12 fully vaccinated.

As of October 1st it had almost reached its target, with 78.5 percent coverage recorded at the latest update to official figures.


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