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COVID-19 RULES

Will Italy scrap the last Covid restrictions in June?

The Italian government is yet to confirm that it will go ahead with plans to relax all pandemic-related rules in time for summer. Here's the latest on what we can expect.

Will Italy scrap the last Covid restrictions in June?
A sign reminds visitors of health precautions at a beach in Fregene near Rome. Photo by Tiziana FABI / AFP

There aren’t many rules and restrictions left in place in Italy at the moment, but some remain as the country has taken a gradual approach to ending health measures this summer.

Most notably, the requirement to wear face masks remains in place on public transport, in cinemas, theatres and concert halls, at indoor sporting events, in schools and in healthcare settings.

READ ALSO: Q&A: Your questions about travel to Italy and Covid rules answered

The requirement is set to be scrapped for everywhere other than in schools and healthcare settings as of June 15th, according to plans drawn up by the health ministry.

But the Italian government always reserves the right to make changes to such plans closer to the deadline, depending on infection rates, hospitalisation rates, and other indicators of the Covid risk level around the country.

The last round of rule relaxations came on May 1st – when ministers chose to keep masks mandatory on public transport until the next review ahead of June 15th.

This date is the final one on the government’s timeline, which foresees almost all measures being scrapped in time for the official start of summer.

So far there are no indications that this plan will change significantly.

READ ALSO: Why are so many Italians still wearing face masks in shops?

But the government is still discussing whether to end the requirement to wear masks on public transport as planned – a rule which some readers of The Local have said is putting them off travel to the country this summer.

“We will certainly be able to remove [masks] in cinemas and theaters. As for public transport, we will consider it,” Italian Health Minister Roberto Speranza told newspaper Corriere della Sera on Saturday.

The health ministry is expected to confirm by May 31st whether or not the entry requirements will remain in place for another month, or will be scrapped as expected. (See our homepage or travel news section for the latest updates.)

There has been no indication as to whether the government also plans to relax the rules on quarantine and isolation for those who test positive for Covid-19.

How much is the health situation improving?

Almost one month after most restrictions were loosened on May 1st, the health situation across Italy does not appear to have worsened. In fact, the data available at the moment shows that the picture continues to improve.

Italy recorded 138,000 new coronavirus infections last week (May 23rd-29th), which is around 50,000 fewer than the previous week.

The seven-day average infection rate continues to fall steadily, and is now at 334 recorded cases per million people.

While this is the lowest rate we’ve seen since mid-December 2021, just before the Omicron variant took hold, it is still far higher than the figure this time last year.

Regional data confirms the downward trend is being seen across the country, with the north-west, and particularly Veneto, recording a slightly more rapid decline in new cases than other areas. 

The test positivity rate – which shows the proportion of all tests carried out which come back positive – is another important indicator, and this too is moving in the right direction. The rate is now 11 percent, which is still pretty high, but the lowest it has been in three months. 

Perhaps the most important indicator of the way things are going though is the data on hospital admissions. At the moment the number of Covid patients remains at about 370 per day; less than half the figure recorded at the end of March, according to data from Italy’s Higher Health Institute (ISS).

Intensive care admissions are at around 20 per day, compared to 50 at the beginning of April. At the peak of the wave of infection caused by the Omicron variant early this year, the number reached 150 a day. 

The data appears to confirm that the declining numbers we’re seeing are not due to a smaller number of tests being carried out, but to a real improvement in the health situation.

As there’s no immediate risk of hospitals being overwhelmed by a new wave of infections, the government looks unlikely to significantly change its plans to scrap the last remaining health measures.

As always, Italy’s health experts are urging us not to throw all caution to the wind.

They remind us that the situation can change again rapidly – as those of us who experienced the last two summers in Italy may remember.

Will we be saying a final addio to Italy’s Covid restrictions on June 15th, or just arrivederci? As ever with the pandemic, we’ll have to wait and see.

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

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COVID-19 RULES

‘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”.

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