Covid-19: Italy considers bringing back outdoor mask requirement

The Italian government is considering making it mandatory once again to wear masks outdoors at all times in public, following calls from local authorities for stricter health measures.

People walk in central Milan wearing face masks.
Italy first made masks mandatory in all outdoor public spaces in October 2020 and has since relaxed the rules.  Photo: Miguel Medina/AFP

The government is “reflecting” on whether it needs to tighten the outdoor mask-wearing rules, Health Undersecretary Andrea Costa said in an interview on TV channel Rai1 on Tuesday.

He noted that mask use is already mandatory outdoors in Italy “in cases where gatherings occur,” adding: “I realise there may be a need to emphasise this rule more clearly at such a delicate moment “.

READ ALSO: ‘Get vaccinated’: Italian virologists urge caution over Omicron Covid variant

“We are facing a period in which it is reasonable to think that there will be a greater concentration of people on our streets,” he said.

“Obviously we are reflecting on this and we will assess things over the next few days”.

Regional leaders have called on the government to tighten the rules in recent days as the infection rate continues to rise across Italy and concern rises about the possible impact of the new Omicron variant after cases were detected in the country over the weekend.

Meanwhile, local authorities in several Italian cities have already announced their own outdoor mask mandates.

Turin has made masks compulsory outdoors from December 2nd-January 15th in the historic centre, at markets and in nightlife areas, news agency Ansa reports.

Bergamo has brought in similar rules from November 27th until January 1st, and Bologna too has mandated masks outdoors in the historic centre between November 26th and January 9th.

Children under the age of six are exempt from mask-wearing rules in Italy.

EXPLAINED: How will Italy’s Covid rules change in December?

The region of Friuli Venezia Giulia was declared a ‘yellow’ low-moderate risk zone from Monday, meaning masks become mandatory again at all times when outdoors in public, while the rest of Italy currently remains in the lowest-risk ‘white’ zone.

In a bid to keep the spread under control, the governent will implement other tightened health measures from December 6th.

This includes incentivising vaccine uptake by increasing restrictions for those who have yet to get the jab with the introduction of a so-called ‘Super green pass’.

Italy’s current Covid-19 green pass health certificate will no longer allow access to “non-essential” services including leisure and cultural venues unless the bearer is vaccinated against or recovered from Covid-19.

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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.