Italy to debate new Covid emergency decree as infections rise

The Italian government has called a meeting on Thursday to discuss potential new Covid restrictions as the number of new confirmed cases surged in recent days.

People shopping in central Rome.
Italy’s government will meet on Thursday to debate possible new Covid restrictions. Photo: Vincenzo PINTO / AFP

Italy’s council of ministers will meet with regional presidents on Thursday, December 23rd, to discuss measures to be included in a new Covid emergency decree.

Prime Minister Mario Draghi called the meeting due to the continued rise in the rate of new infections and concerns over the spread of the Omicron variant in Europe, reports Italian news daily Corriere della Sera.

READL ALSO: Four more Italian regions declared Covid ‘yellow’ zones as infections rise

Italy recorded 28,632 new Covid cases in 24 hours on Friday – the highest number in over a year – while the national Higher Health Institute (ISS) said on Saturday that it had so far identified 84 Omicron cases, a sharp increase from the 55 announced on Friday.

“There is an element of concern on the part of the government”, Italy’s health minister Roberto Speranza said in a recent interview on talk show Che tempo che fa. “We are discussing and will evaluate possible solutions.”

He urged people in Italy to use “maximum precaution, prudence and avoid gatherings as much as possible during the Christmas holidays” and highlighted the importance of vaccines for five-11-year-olds, booster shots in adults, and the widespread use of masks.

It’s not known if the government will introduce any major new restrictions over the Christmas and New Year holiday period, and the prime minister has said he wants to do everything possible to ensure businesses remain open.

Italian news outlets were speculating on Monday about what these might be – although at this stage, the government has yet to make any official announcements.

One expected change is a new requirement to produce a negative test result, in addition to a reinforced health pass or ‘super green pass’ proving the bearer is vaccinated or recovered from Covid, to enter areas like nightclubs and discos.

Another possible restriction, suggests Corriere, is limiting crowds in shopping centres by introducing a one in, one out nightclub-style system to ensure a maximum capacity is not exceeded; or to require a basic ‘green pass’, showing the holder is vaccinated, recovered, or recently tested negative for Covid in order to enter a shopping centre.

People wear protective face masks on Piazza di Spagna in central Rome on December 05, 2021.

People wear protective face masks on Piazza di Spagna in central Rome on December 05, 2021. Vincenzo PINTO / AFP

On Monday, the regions of Liguria, Marche, Veneto and the autonomous province of Trento lost their low-risk ‘white’ zone status under Italy’s four-tiered system of Covid restrictions under an ordinance signed by Health Minister Roberto Speranza.

The ministry reclassified the four areas as ‘yellow’ zones after they exceeded the maximum thresholds for Covid infection rates, hospitalisations and intensive care admissions according to the latest data from the Higher Health Institute (ISS).

They join Friuli Venezia Giulia, Calabria, and the autonomous province of Bolzano, which were already under ‘yellow’ zone restrictions.

Currently, those with a ‘super green pass’ are able to access all venues and facilities across the country, whether in the least-restricted ‘white’ zones or more restricted ‘yellow’ or ‘orange’ zones, without taking a Covid test.

READ ALSO: Q&A: How does Italy’s new Covid ‘super green pass’ work?

But with the highly contagious Omicron variant spreading rapidly throughout Europe, it’s feared that vaccination or recovery from Covid alone won’t be enough prevent the spread of infections, particularly where there are large indoor gatherings

Longer term measures are thought to be likely to include the reduction of the validity of a ‘super green pass’ from nine to seven months, and the extension of the ‘super green pass’ requirement from January 15th to March 31, 2022, which is when Italy’s current state of emergency is next set to expire.

In ‘white’ and ‘yellow’ zones (currently the whole country – no region is yet under stricter ‘orange’ or ‘red’ zone restrictions), no health certificate is at present needed to enter shops and shopping centres under national rules.

Regional or city authorities can however impose their own additional measures locally.

Mayors of some major cities have already cancelled some Christmas and new year’s events in an effort to keep their infection rates under control.

In Rome there is no annual Christmas market in Piazza Navona this year, and a New Year’s Eve concert that was due to be held in Circo Massimo, an ancient Roman chariot racing track often used as a modern day outdoor events space, has been cancelled, according to Sky News.

“We had chosen some great Roman artists for the relaunch, a spectacular location in Circo Massimo, and impeccable organization for safety,” the city’s major events councillor Alessandro Onorato told Italian media. “But in this moment our priority is and must be to safeguard the health of Romans and avoid gatherings.”

A New Year’s Eve celebration in Bologna’s Piazza Maggiore has also been cancelled, reports Sky, while Naples’ mayor has imposed a moratorium on street parties in the period between Christmas and the New Year, with the consumption of any food or drink other than water banned in public spaces from December 23rd to January 1st.

Member comments

    1. Deaths lag two to three weeks behind the surge in cases. We have seen it over and over. Hopefully it doesn’t happen this time but it’s hard to be optimistic after the last two years of this.

  1. In 2018 there were >633k deaths in Italy, that’s over 1700 deaths a day – there is a complete lack of context with the covid models, media reporting and subsequent policy making. No one is reporting on the following:

    – The ratio of covid deaths against all other causes.
    – The average age of deaths per day (81 yrs old).
    – The are deaths are “with” not “of” Covid.
    – How many of these deaths are co-morbidities

    The modelling is made to suit the worst case as directed by the policy makers, people are terrified and eating it up. Especially here in Italy there seems to be this completely misguided sense of social responsibility leading to mass compliance without any challenge to the data or real intention. Why on earth have we allowed a generation of children have their world turned upside down, schools closed, jobs lost, social life abandoned? For what? To theoretically protect and extend the lives of a vulnerable minority who are still living up and past to the average life expectancy? It’s madness. Why is the conversation about lockdowns and government bailouts rather than healthcare reform to ensure we can live with this? Where is the balanced media reporting?

    We’ve accepted the first lockdowns as there was no data and we had to plan for the worst case. We’ve taken your first, second and now third vaccine dose, if further restrictions come into play now this farce will continue forever. Governments are leading Europe down a very dark road if honest conversations don’t start happening asap.

  2. I’m so pleased to read that people are starting to speak out on here.

    When I did over a year ago, I was shot down in flames. People swore at me, called me an idiot and told me to go and get my facts right.

    THANK YOU @Mike and @Glenn and @Brad for speaking out.

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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.