Italy to ‘reconsider’ tiered system of Covid risk zones

The Italian government is holding talks on Monday over the future of the four-tiered system of health measures in place since last November and may also change the way Covid cases are counted, local media reports.

People walk in central Milan wearing FFP2 face masks.
Italy's coloured zone system of Covid rules could soon be scrapped as the country relies increasingly on vaccination. Photo: Miguel Medina

Italian Health Minister Roberto Speranza confirmed on Monday that “in the next few hours we’ll open a discussion” with regional authorities “to address issues” with the tiered system, according to national broadcaster Rai.

The president of Italy’s Higher Health Institute (ISS), Franco Locatelli, said: “The coloured system for the regions was developed by the health ministry in different times,” adding that a review was “logical”.

While no details were given by officials as to the changes being proposed on Monday morning, Rai writes that government may “consign the coloured system to the attic”, ie: scrap it altogether.

MAP: Which Covid risk zone is each Italian region in from Monday?

Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera cites Health Undersecretary Pierpaolo Sileri as saying the rules “will be modified and relaxed very soon”, while news agency Ansa reports that the government is also likely to change the way Covid cases are counted, without giving further detail.

Introduced under former prime minister Giuseppe Conte in early November 2020, the zone system divides Italy’s 21 regions and autonomous provinces by colour: from white (lowest risk), to yellow, orange, and red (highest risk).

The system, which has been revised multiple times since it was first brought in, was initially used to place tighter restrictions on movement in areas where the risk of contagion and pressure on hospitals was deemed dangerously high.

But the system’s usefulness is increasingly being called into question amid increasing reliance on the use of vaccine passes in Italy and rule changes which mean restrictions in white and yellow zones are now the same, while rules only change in an orange zone for people who are unvaccinated.

With the government also expected to agree this week on new rules restricting access to more venues and services to the unvaccinated regardless of zone from February, the orange zone classification could also soon become obsolete.

Starting next month, either the ‘super’ green pass – which is effectively a vaccine pass – or the ‘basic’ version, which can also be accessed using a negative test result, will be a requirement everywhere in Italy except for supermarkets, grocery stores, hospitals and pharmacies, Rai reports.

The government is yet to decide whether it will require passes for entry to shops such as newsagents and tobacconists, with a decision expected by the middle of this week.

For the moment, the coloured tier system remains in place with most of the country designated a ‘yellow’ zone as of Monday.

On Friday, the health minister signed an ordinance increasing the risk level in two regions from Monday, January 17th.

Valle d’Aosta became Italy’s only ‘orange’ zone and Calabria turned ‘yellow’, as the health situation was deemed to be worsening according to the latest weekly health data report published by the health ministry and ISS.

Italy’s health ministry examines the latest figures each week and decides which restrictions should be applied to a region or autonomous province from the following Monday.

EXPLAINED: What are the rules in Italy’s Covid ‘orange’ zones?

“The epidemic is at a delicate stage and a persistent increase in the number of cases and hospitalisations has been observed for several weeks now,” the report stated.

Scientific experts predict that the current wave of contagions sweeping Italy is likely to hit its ‘peak’ in Italy by the end of this week – but have warned that daily case numbers may rise further before this happens.

For more information about Italy’s current Covid-19 health measures please see the Italian health ministry’s website (available in English).

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.
For members


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.