Italy to end Covid outdoor mask requirement from Friday

The Italian health minister has signed a new ordinance easing the requirement for face masks to be worn in all outdoor public places.

Italy to end Covid outdoor mask requirement from Friday
Italy's outdoor mask requirement will now only apply in crowded areas. Photo: Miguel Medina/AFP

Italy’s outdoor mask mandate will be dropped nationwide from Friday, February 11th under a new ordinance signed by Health Minister Roberto Speranza late on Tuesday.

The change effectively means Italy reverts back to the rules on mask-wearing in force previously: masks remain compulsory in all indoor public places, the text confirms, and the requirement to carry a mask with you at all times “in case of gatherings” outdoors remains in place.

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

The mandate was initially expected to be dropped in low risk ‘white’ zones only, but Deputy Health Minister Andrea Costa told news agency Ansa on Monday that it will be removed regardless of a region’s risk classification under the government’s four-tiered system of Covid rules – which no longer applies to those who are vaccinated under a new decree in force from February 5th.

The change brings Italy’s national rules in line with recommendations from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), which states that: “in outdoor environments where distancing is not possible, the use of face masks must be considered”.

Italy’s outdoor mask requirement was reintroduced in late December amid a surge in coronavirus infections driven by the more infectious Omicron variant.

The rule, along with a closure order for nightclubs and dance venues, is set to expire on Friday after it was recently extended for ten days.

More announcements about rule changes are expected in the coming days and weeks after Prime Minister Mario Draghi said on Thursday that a “timeline” would be given as the government looks at “even greater reopening of the country”.

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

While no further announcements have been made, Italian media reports that incoming rule changes are expected to include an increase in sports stadium capacity – up to at least 75 percent for outdoor facilities and 60 percent for indoor ones.

The Italian green pass system is not expected to be scaled back 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 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, and therefore so are all health measures, including the mask ordinance signed on Tuesday.

Deputy Health Minister Andrea Costa said last week that “the government’s objective is that [the state of emergency] not be extended after March 31st, and I trust that the conditions are in place for it not to be extended,” according to Rai.

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”.

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

Member comments

  1. Personally I’ve never worn a mask outside (apart from in confined spaces such as the mercato) – law or not, it’s completely unscientific and pointless. Italians love a comfort blanket though, it plays into the national hypochondria.

  2. Check the rule for your region as they might be different. For example, in Campania masks are required outdoors until February 28.

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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”.