Italy extends Covid outdoor mask rules and nightclub closures for ten days

Italy's government has extended several Covid restrictions that were due to expire on Monday, according to Italian media reports.

Italy's outdoor mask mandate has been extended.
Italy's outdoor mask mandate has been extended. Photo by Miguel MEDINA / AFP

Following an agreement reached by ministers on Monday afternoon, the country’s outdoor mask mandate will now be extended until at least February 10th, according to a report in the Il Messaggero newspaper citing unnamed government sources.

Nightclubs and dance bars, which had been due to reopen from the start of February, will remain closed until the same date, reports news agency Ansa.

The decision was reportedly approved at a cabinet meeting held on Monday afternoon with the intention of reviewing the expiring rules.

These included the requirement to wear masks outdoors in Italy’s lowest-risk ‘white’ zones, as well as a ban on outdoor parties, nightclubs and dance venues that was introduced shortly before Christmas in an effort to battle the country’s soaring infection rates.

Italian news outlets had widely predicted that the rules would be extended for at least another two weeks. 

As of Monday evening, there were no reported changes to incoming rules scheduled to enter into force from February 1st, some of which had also been up for review at the same cabinet meeting.

READ ALSO: Italian government to decide changes to Covid restrictions on Monday

These include a reduction in the validity of Italy’s ‘super green pass’ Covid health certificate, which is now required to access most services and venues in the country, from nine to six months.

Those who had their booster early could see their pass expire in the coming days or weeks – an issue which primarily affects healthcare workers, who were among the first to be vaccinated with a third dose from September.

The apparent absence of any such extension also raises questions about how the new rules will affect foreign tourists from countries which began administering booster shots earlier than Italy, such as the US.

With no fourth dose available, the Italian government is reportedly reconsidering the cut to validity..

It looks likely that ministers will decide to either keep the validity period at nine months, or even to extend it indefinitely for those who have had a booster, according to reports in Italian media on Monday.

The ‘super green pass’, or its equivalent in the form of a foreign-issued vaccination certificate, is currently required to use public transport, enter hotels and restaurants, access tourist and cultural sites, or to go to the cinema, sports stadiums, or concerts.

Other items still up for review include long-discussed changes to the country’s four-tiered system of coronavirus risk ‘zones’, which was not updated this week and looks increasingly likely to be scrapped; and steps to simplify the “cacophony” of rules on managing the health situation in schools in Italy, which Ansa says “is creating difficulties not only for the school system but also for millions of families”.

The government is expected to hold discussions throughout this week before publishing a new decree containing further changes on Thursday.

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


Italy allows suspended anti-vax doctors to return to work

Italian heathcare staff suspended over their refusal to be vaccinated against Covid-19 can now return to work, Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni confirmed on Monday.

Italy allows suspended anti-vax doctors to return to work

Italy become the first country in Europe to make it obligatory for healthcare workers to be vaccinated, ruling in 2021 that they must have the jab or be transferred to other roles or suspended without pay.

That obligation had been set to expire in December, but was brought forward to Tuesday due to “a shortage of medical and health personnel”, Health Minister Orazio Schillaci said.

READ ALSO: Is Italy’s government planning to scrap all Covid measures?

Italy was the first European country to be hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic in early 2020, and has since registered nearly 180,000 deaths.

Schillaci first announced the plan to scrap the rule on Friday in a statement saying data showed the virus’ impact on hospitals  “is now limited”.

Those who refuse vaccination will be “reintegrated” into the workforce before the rule expires at the end of this year, as part of what the minister called a “gradual return to normality”.

Meloni said the move, which has been criticised by the centre-left as a win for anti-vax campaigners, would mean some 4,000 healthcare workers can return to work.

This includes some 1,579 doctors and dentists refusing vaccination, according to records at the end of October, representing 0.3 percent of all those registered with Italy’s National Federation of the Orders of Physicians, Surgeons and Dentists (Fnomceo) 

Meloni’s post-fascist Brothers of Italy party railed against the way Mario Draghi’s government handled the pandemic, when it was the main opposition party, and she promised to use her first cabinet meetings to mark a clear break in policies with her predecessor.