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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Italy lifts mask mandate for private sector workers

Masks will no longer be required in the workplace but Italian companies will have the right to impose restrictions for employees deemed "at risk".

Italy lifts mask mandate for private sector workers

Representatives from the Italian Ministry of Labour, Ministry of Health and all major national unions collectively signed off on Thursday a new “shared protocol” (protocollo condiviso) for the implementation of anti-Covid measures in private workplaces. 

Although the full text of the bill will only be made available to the public sometime next week, portions of the document have already been released to the media, thus disclosing the government’s next steps in the fight against the virus.

The most relevant update concerns face masks, which will no longer be mandatory in private workplaces. 

However, the text specifies, FFP2 face masks remain “an important protective item aimed at safeguarding workers’ health”. As such, employers will have the right to autonomously impose the use of face coverings on categories of workers considered “at risk”.

READ ALSO: Italy’s transport mask rule extended to September as Covid rate rises

Notably, face coverings may remain mandatory for those working in “indoor settings shared by multiple employees” or even in “outdoor settings where social distancing may not be practicable”. Individuals with pre-existing medical conditions (soggetti fragili) may also be subject to such rules, which, it is worth reminding, are left to the employer’s discretion. 

Alongside mask-related restrictions, employers will also have the right to have their staff undergo temperature checks prior to entering the workplace. In such cases, anyone with a body temperature higher than 37.5C will be denied access to the workplace and will be asked to temporarily self-isolate pending further indications from their own doctor.

In line with previous measures, companies will be required to continue supplying sanitising products free of charge and regulate access to common areas (canteens, smoking areas, etc.) so as to avoid gatherings.

Additionally, employers will be advised to keep incentivising smart working (lavoro agile), as it has proved to be “a valuable tool to curb infection, especially for at-risk individuals”.

Provided that the country’s infection curve registers no significant changes, the updated protocol will remain in place until October 31st, when it will yet again be reviewed by the relevant governmental and social parties. 

With the latest round of measures, Italy has now scrapped all Covid-related health measures, except the requirement to wear face masks on public transport (though not on planes) and in healthcare settings, and self-isolation provisions for those testing positive. 

READ ALSO: At a glance: What are the Covid-19 rules in Italy now?

Italy’s infection curve has been rising significantly since the beginning of June. From June 1st to June 14th, Covid’s R (spreading rate) rate rose back over 1 for the first time since April 8th. Also, from June 17th to June 23rd, the virus’s incidence rate was 504 cases every 100,000 residents, up by 62 per cent on the previous week.

According to Claudio Mastroianni, Professor of Infectious Diseases at Sapienza University of Rome, “with 25 per cent of daily Covid swabs coming back positive and a R rate over 1, the infection curve will likely rise at least until mid-July”.

However, albeit acknowledging the rising number of positive cases, Deputy Health Minister Andrea Costa has so far categorically excluded the possibility of re-introducing lapsed Covid measures, saying that it’ll be a “restriction-free summer”.