Health experts had urged the government to rethink its quarantine policies amid concerns that the spread of the highly contagious Omicron variant could paralyse the country by forcing millions to stay at home.
With close to 100,000 people now testing positive daily in Italy, experts warned this could mean half a million more people required to quarantine every day unless the rules were eased.
Quarantine will no longer be required for those who had contact with a positive case if they have had a booster dose, or were vaccinated or have recovered within the last 120 days, according to a government statement released on Wednesday night.
They will be required to wear a more protective FFP2 mask for 10 days and, if they have symptoms, take a test within five days of contact with the positive person.
Previous rules required all contacts to quarantine (for seven days if vaccinated and ten if not) and then get a negative test result at the end of this period.
It was not clear from the initial announcement when the quarantine rule change would come into effect. The government is working on a new decree on Thursday, news agency Ansa reports.
On Wednesday night, the government also added to the growing list of venues where the ‘super’ or reinforced green pass will be required from January 10th, now including outdoor restaurants, hotels, and ski lifts as well as all forms of public transport.
Italy’s reinforced green pass. introduced in early December, can only be obtained via vaccination or recovery, and not with a negative test result.
The government stopped short of introducing the requirement at all workplaces – which would effectively amount to a long-discussed vaccination mandate for a large proportion of the population.
“I think it is reasonable to apply different rules to those citizens who have followed the government’s indications, taking two doses and then the booster,” said health undersecretary Andrea Costa.
The new measures were confirmed as the daily number of coronavirus cases soared to a record 98,030 on Wednesday, with the number of hospitalised patients also rising.
The rule changes come in addition to a raft of tighter rules announced on Thursday, December 23rd, including a ban on outdoor events over the festive period and the closure of nightclubs until January 31st.
Italy’s government last week also introduced new random testing requirements for international arrivals, in addition to the existing rules on testing and vaccination.
For further details about Italy’s current Covid-19 health measures please see the Italian Health Ministry’s website (available in English).