Italy to extend Covid state of emergency until March 2022

The Italian government is expected to extend the state of emergency until March 2022 as it debates further health measures on Tuesday evening.

Carabinieri police patrol as people do their Christmas shopping in central Rome.
Carabinieri police patrol as people do their Christmas shopping in central Rome. Photo : Filippo MONTEFORTE/AFP

The Italian government has approved a draft decree on Tuesday which would extend the current state of emergency until March 31st, 2022.

While the draft could yet be amended, the legislation would mean an extension to current rules on the use of the ‘green pass’ health certificate and the country’s four-tiered system of health measures with regions classified as white, yellow, orange and red risk zones.

READ ALSO: How Italy’s Covid ‘green pass’ rules changed on December 6th

The government is also expected to announce a new quarantine requirement for all unvaccinated travellers entering Italy, including those coming from within Europe, according to reports from state broadcaster Rai.

Under current rules, proof of a negative test result is sufficient for quarantine-free travel to Italy.

With Europe in the grip of a coronavirus fourth wave, Italy has in recent weeks issued a raft of stricter health measures aimed at stemming rising infection and hospitalisation rates in the country.

Until now, government ministers had appeared reluctant to state whether and for how long the state of emergency could be extended into 2022, though it has long been clear that doing so would be necessary in order to keep the current rules in place.

But Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi decided to “speed up” the decision, news agency Ansa reported, “to give a clear signal of the priorities relating to the pandemic.”

What is the state of emergency?

Though declaring a ‘state of emergency’ may sound dramatic, in practice it is done in order to ease bureaucracy and allow local and national governments to pass laws quickly in response to a fast-changing situation.

Known as the stato di emergenza in Italian, the declaration of emergency status gives more power to the government and regional authorities to make changes rapidly in response to a constantly changing health situation.

READ ALSO: What will Italy’s Covid restrictions be this Christmas?

It’s not the same thing as an emergency decree, or DPCM (Decreto del Presidente del Consiglio dei Ministri, or a prime minister’s decree) but rather the condition needed for these emergency laws to be passed.

The introduction of rules requiring the use of face masks and the Italian Covid health certificate or ‘green pass’, for example, would have normally required a lengthy parliamentary process.

If the state of emergency were to end as currently scheduled on December 31st, these rules would cease to be valid.

How long will it be extended for?

While the final decree text is yet to be signed into law, the draft currently in circulation states that the state of emergency will be extended for three months – until March 31st, 2022.

The measure has already been in place for almost 23 months in total. It was first introduced on January 31st 2020, as the first cases of coronavirus were detected in Rome.

Initially, it had a timescale of six months but it has been rolled over several times amid the continuing pandemic.

There had been doubts about whether the government could declare a a three-month extension, as Italian law states that a national state of emergency cannot be declared for more than 12 months at a time and can only be extended for a maximum of 12 months beyond that, making two years in total.

Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi and Health Minister Roberto Speranza continue to favour a cautious approach to dealing with the pandemic, with the country now relying heavily on the use of the ‘green pass’ system as well as vaccinations in order to keep infection rates under control this winter.

Draghi’s cabinet continues to draw on the advice of the Covid-19 emergency commission and scientific advisory panel (the Comitato tecnic o scientifico or CTS) – which was set up under the state of emergency rules early on in the pandemic.

For further details about Italy’s current Covid-19 health measures please see the Italian Health Ministry’s website (available in English).

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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.