Italy scraps tiered system of Covid rules for vaccinated

The Italian government on Wednesday night confirmed that its four-tiered system of coronavirus rules would no longer apply to those who are vaccinated against or recovered from Covid-19.

People walk in central Milan wearing FFP2 face masks.
Italy will no longer enforce health measures under its tiered system as the country relies increasingly on vaccination. Photo: Miguel Medina

“if a region ends up in the red zone, the related limitations will not affect vaccinated people,” stated Italian Health Minister Roberto Speranza at a press conference on Wednesday night announcing the contents of an incoming decree.

A government press release clarified that red zone  restrictions will not apply to anyone with a ‘super’ green pass – the name given to Italy’s Covid health certificate issued based on vaccination (with one or more doses) against Covid-19 or a certificate of recovery from the disease.

This is as opposed to the ‘basic’ version of the Italian green pass, which can also be issued based on a negative test result and is valid in limited circumstances.

READ ALSO: Italy confirms unlimited Covid green pass validity after booster

For those who remain unvaccinated and who do not have a recent recovery certificate, rules under zone restrictions will continue to apply.

The rule change announced on Wednesday means Italy’s system of zone restrictions, in place since November 2020, has effectively been scrapped for those who are vaccinated or recently recovered.

No additional restrictions are placed on those with a ‘super’ green pass if a region is declared a yellow or orange zones under Italy’s existing rules.

Nationwide health measures, such as the mask mandate in public areas, will also continue to apply regardless of vaccination status.

The new decree is aimed at simplifying Italy’s mass of Covid-19 rules and restrictions as the country’s health situation continues to improve, and as some rules are increasingly seen as obsolete amid Italy’s growing reliance on the use of vaccine passes.

Prime Minister Mario Draghi promised on Wednesday night to “continue to advance on this path of reopening”, saying ministers would soon announce a timeline for easing restrictions.

The government had been promising to review the use of its coloured zone system since mid-January, as its usefulness was called into question.

EXPLAINED: How do Italy’s Covid ‘super green pass’ rules apply to visitors?

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

It was initially used to place tighter restrictions on movement in areas where the risk of contagion and pressure on hospitals was deemed dangerously high.

No further details about how zone restrictions will apply to the unvaccinated under the new decree were immediately available on Thursday.

More information, including the date when the decree comes into force, will be confirmed once the full text has been published; multiple Italian media outlets have suggested the new rules are likely to take effect from Monday.

Nearly 88 percent of Italy’s population over the age of 12 has now been vaccinated and around 34 million people have received a third dose, according to the latest health ministry data.

For more information please see the Italian health ministry’s website (available in English) or the government’s official green pass website.

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‘Not offensive’: Italian minister defends Covid testing rule for China arrivals

Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani defended the policy of testing all arrivals from China for Covid-19 after Beijing said the policy "lacks scientific basis".

'Not offensive': Italian minister defends Covid testing rule for China arrivals

“It seems perfectly normal to me,” Tajani told Italian state broadcaster Rai on Tuesday. “Having a test is a way to protect people’s health. There is nothing offensive about it.”

“Lots of Chinese and Italians coming from China do it (anyway),” he claimed.

READ ALSO: Is the EU likely to reinstate Covid travel restrictions?

Italy was the first European country to make testing on arrival a requirement for passengers arriving on flights from China last week, after a surge in the infection rate there.

Italian Health Minister Orazio Schillaci said on Wednesday that the screening requirement was “essential to ensure the surveillance and identification of any variants of the virus in order to protect the Italian population”.

READ ALSO: Italy pushes for EU-wide China Covid measures as tests show no new variants

France and Spain have since introduced similar rules (as well as non-EU countries including the UK and USA) and there is now a meeting scheduled for Wednesday of the EU Integrated Policy Response Capability to discuss coordinating measures.

Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni said the screening policy would be “ineffective” if not done on a European level, as only people arriving on direct flights from China were being tested in Italy, not those with stopovers.

But the Chinese government on Tuesday hit out at countries introducing a policy of mandatory testing for people arriving from China.

“Some countries have taken entry restrictions targeting only Chinese travellers,” foreign ministry spokesperson Mao Ning was quoted as saying at a briefing by AFP.

“This lacks scientific basis and some practices are unacceptable”.

She said Beijing may “take countermeasures based on the principle of reciprocity”.