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COVID-19 RULES

Italy to give timeline for easing Covid rules as case numbers fall

Italy is about to enter a "new phase" of the Covid-19 pandemic, according to government ministers, as the vaccination rate rises and the health situation continues to improve across most of the country.

People wear face masks as they walk in central Rome.
People wearing face masks as they walk in central Rome. Photo: Andreas Solaro/AFP

As Italy’s latest decree changing the country’s Covid rules came into force over the weekend, very little effectively changed for most people in the country. 

The government’s update, which it said was aimed at simplifying the country’s mass of pandemic-related restrictions, contained measures which altered the quarantine rules in schools and effectively scrapped the nationwide coloured ‘zone’ system for the 90 percent of the population who are vaccinated.

READ ALSO: Green pass and red zones: How Italy’s latest decree changes the Covid rules

The decree also aimed to make it easier for visitors to access venues and services under the country’s health pass scheme – including if they’ve had a vaccine not currently recognised by Italian authorities.

But while the decree clarified various aspects of Italy’s health measures, it doesn’t yet mean any significant easing of the rules for most of the population.

Ministers insisted at the end of last week however that the improving health situation in Italy meant things would soon start to change.

As the latest decree was finalised on Thursday, Prime Minister Mario Draghi said the measures were “going in the direction of an even greater reopening of the country”, according to reports from national broadcaster Rai.

“In the coming weeks we will continue on this path towards reopening,” he said. 

“Based on the scientific evidence, and continuing to follow the trend of the epidemiological curve, we will announce a timeline for overcoming the current restrictions”.

People wearing face masks walk in central Milan. Photo: Miguel MEDINA / AFP

Meanwhile on Friday, the health minister hailed the beginning of “a new phase” for the country as Italy exceeded 90 percent vaccination coverage.

“We’ve got 91 percent of Italians over the age of 12 who have received their first dose of an anti-Covid vaccine, 88 percent who’ve had two doses and have completed the primary cycle, and almost 35 million having had the booster too,” Health Minister Roberto Speranza told reporters.

“This enables us to open a new phase in the fight against Covid,” he said.

“We still have to keep our feet on the ground and remain prudent, but for the first time in many weeks we are looking with confidence at the numbers, which are finally improving”. 

Italian authorities said the country reached the ‘peak’ of the current wave of contagions at the end of January.

Daily case numbers continue to gradually fall, with 93,157 infections reported on Saturday, February 5th, down from 99,522 the day before, while the number of deaths decreased to 375 from 433, health ministry data showed.

The occupancy rate in intensive care dropped overall last week, health ministry data showed, to 14.8 and in general wards the figure fell to 29.5 percent.

However the situation is not the same in every part of the country. Scientific experts estimate that the curve is flattening “in about two thirds of Italian provinces” according to reports on Sunday, and they stress that incidence rates remain high across the country,

While the picture is looking more positive overall, Italian health experts continue to urge caution and issue reminders that the end of the current wave is not the same thing as the end of the pandemic.

it remains unclear what the government’s promised “new phase” will look like, or exactly which rules may be eased and when.

The next update on the country’s Covid restrictions is due by February 10th, when the outdoor mask mandate and the closure of nightclubs and dance venues are up for review again after both rules were recently extended.

On February 15th however, green pass rules are scheduled to tighten for the over-50s as a reinforced or ‘super’ green pass will become mandatory in workplaces for this age group.

The Italian green pass system itself is not expected to be scaled back anytime soon, with some experts including Walter Ricciardi, an advisor to the health minister, maintaining that it must stay in place over summer “at least”.

These rules can only remain in force however under the nationwide state of emergency, which creates the conditions for the government to pass new laws urgently by decree.

Italy’s state of emergency is currently set to expire on March 31st, 2022. It is not yet known whether the government plans to extend it.

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

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COVID-19 RULES

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.

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