Italy’s regional Covid-19 ‘zones’ remain unchanged from Monday

There will be no change to the Covid risk classifications for Italian regions this week, the health minister confirmed, as the four-tiered system looks increasingly likely to be scrapped.

People have a drink on a bar terrace at the Navigli in downtown Milan.
Italy has been under a system of regional Covid restrictios since November 2020. Photo: Miguel MEDINA / AFP

All of Italy’s 21 regions and autonomous provinces will retain their current ‘zone’ status for another week under Italy’s system of Covid risk classification, Health Minister Roberto Speranza confirmed.

“I’m not signing an ordinance today: no region will change colour,” Speranza told reporters in parliament on Friday evening during a vote in Italy’s presidential election.

The regions are currently classified as follows:

  • White zone: Basilicata, Molise and Umbria;
  • Yellow zone : Calabria, Campania, Emilia Romagna, Lazio, Liguria, Lombardy, Marche, Puglia, Sardinia, Tuscany, Veneto, Autonomous Provinces of Bolzano and Trento;
  • Orange zone : Abruzzo, Friuli Venezia Giulia, Piedmont, Sicily and Valle d’Aosta;
  • Red zone: No regions.

The decision as to which zone each region is in is made based on analysis of weekly data relating to infection rates, and the percentages of both intensive care beds and regular hospital beds occupied by Covid patients.

Italy's tiered system of localised Covid restrictions was first introduced in November 2020, and was initially used to place tighter limitations on movement in areas where the risk of contagion and pressure on hospitals was deemed dangerously high.

READ ALSO: How do Italy’s Covid-19 rules change from February 1st?

Previously, the system meant that areas in the ‘white’ zone were under the most relaxed rules, and ‘yellow’, ‘orange’ and ‘red’ zones were under increasingly strict measures aimed at containing the spread of the virus.

But the system’s usefulness is increasingly being called into question amid Italy's increasing reliance on the use of vaccine passes instead, and recent 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.

People walk at twilight along the Arno river near the Ponte Vecchio in downtown Florence, Tuscany.
People walk at twilight along the Arno river near the Ponte Vecchio in Florence, Tuscany. Vincenzo PINTO / AFP

It is now necessary to present a 'super green pass' health certificate, available only to those who are vaccinated or recovered, to access most services and venues throughout Italy, including public transport, hotels, tourist and cultural sites and restaurants.

From February 1st, a 'basic green pass', which can also be obtained via a negative Covid test result, will be required to enter all 'non-essential' shops and to access post offices, banks, and public offices, as well as hairdressers and beauty salons.

As these rules apply nationwide, the unvaccinated (or unrecovered) face strict constraints even in the 'white' zone, while those with a vaccine pass will experience little change to their daily lives even with a transition to 'orange' zone rules.

Only in the 'red' zone, which in effect imposes a full lockdown, does life substantially change for 'super green pass' holders - leading critics to dismiss the tiered colour system as obsolete in all but the most extreme circumstances.

After weeks of speculation that the four-tiered system is about to be scrapped, Italy's government confirmed last week that it would hold talks with regional authorities with a view to revising the system.

On Friday, newspaper Corriere della Sera reported that deputy Health Secretary Andrea Costa had said all aspects of the system apart from the 'red' zone would be scrapped.

The government has not yet confirmed the changes, however. An official announcement is expected in the coming days.

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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.