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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Reader question: What are Italy’s Covid quarantine rules for travellers?

Italy's quarantine rules have changed so many times over the past couple of years, it can be hard to keep track. Here's the latest information on when and how visitors need to self-isolate.

Reader question: What are Italy's Covid quarantine rules for travellers?

Question: “One of your recent articles says you can exit quarantine by testing negative for the coronavirus. But you can also exit quarantine by obtaining a certificate of recovery from Covid-19… true?”

Unfortunately, official proof of having recovered from Covid-19 won’t get you out of the requirement to self-isolate if you test positive for Covid while visiting Italy – though it can shorten your quarantine period.

The health ministry’s current rules state that anyone who tests positive while in Italy is required to immediately self-isolate for a minimum of seven days: that’s if the person in question is fully vaccinated and boosted, or has completed their primary vaccination cycle, or was certified as being recovered from Covid less than 120 days ago.

That period is extended to 10 days for those who aren’t fully vaccinated and boosted, or those who recovered from Covid or completed their primary vaccination cycle more than 120 days ago.

In either case, the infected person must have been symptomless for at least three days in order to exit quarantine (with the exception of symptoms relating to a lost sense of taste or smell, which can persist for some time after the infection is over).

READ ALSO: Travel in Italy and Covid rules this summer: what to expect

The patient must also test negative for the virus via either a molecular (PCR) or rapid antigen test on the final day of the quarantine in order to be allowed out.

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

Quarantined people who keep testing positive for the virus can be kept in self-isolation for a maximum of 21 days, at which point they will be automatically released.

Italy does not currently require visitors from any country to test negative in order to enter its borders, as long as they are fully boosted or were recently vaccinated/ have recently recovered from Covid.

READ ALSO: How tourists and visitors can get a coronavirus test in Italy

Some countries (including the US), however, do require people travelling from Italy to test negative before their departure – which means visitors at the tail end of their journey could be hit with the unpleasant surprise of finding out they need to quarantine for another week in Italy instead of heading home as planned.

It’s because of this rule that a number of The Local’s readers told us they wouldn’t be coming on holiday to Italy this summer, and intend to postpone for another year.

If you are planning on visiting Italy from a country that requires you to test negative for Covid prior to re-entry, it’s a good idea to consider what you would do and where you would go in the unlikely event you unexpectedly test positive.

Please note that The Local cannot advise on specific cases. For more information about how the rules may apply to you, see the Italian Health Ministry’s website or consult the Italian embassy in your country.

You can keep up with the latest updates via our homepage or Italian travel news section.