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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

Will Italy drop its Covid isolation rule as the infection rate falls?

The health ministry is reviewing its quarantine requirements as the country's Covid-19 health situation improved again this week, according to Italian media reports.

Will Italy drop its Covid isolation rule as the infection rate falls?

Italy has taken a more cautious approach to Covid in recent months than many of its European neighbours, keeping strict isolation rules in place for anyone who tests positive for the virus.

But this could be set to change in the coming days, according to media reports, as one of Italy’s deputy health ministers said the government is about to cut the isolation period for asymptomatic cases.

“Certainly in the next few days there will be a reduction in isolation for those who are positive but have no symptoms,” Deputy Health Minister Andrea Costa said in a TV interview on the political talk show Agorà on Tuesday.

“We have to manage to live with the virus,” he said.

Italy’s La Stampa newspaper reported that the compulsory isolation period could be reduced to 48 hours for those who test positive but remain asymptomatic – provided they subsequently test negative after the day two mark.

Under Italy’s current rules, vaccinated people who test positive must stay in isolation for at least seven days, and unvaccinated people for ten days – regardless of whether or not they have any symptoms.

READ ALSO: How tourists and visitors can get a coronavirus test in Italy

At the end of the isolation period, the patient has to take another test to exit quarantine. Those who test negative are free to leave; those who remain positive must stay in isolation until they get a negative test result, up to a maximum of 21 days in total (at which point it doesn’t matter what the test result says).

Health ministry sources indicated the new rules would cut the maximum quarantine period to 15 or even 10 days for people who continue to test positive after the initial isolation period is up, La Stampa said.

The government is believed to be reviewing the rules as the latest official data showed Covid infection and hospitalisation rates were slowing again this week, as the current wave of contagions appeared to have peaked in mid-July.

However, the national Rt number (which shows the rate of transmission) remained above the epidemic threshold, and the number of fatalities continued to rise.

The proposed changes still aren’t lenient enough for some parties. Regional authorities have been pushing for an end to quarantine altogether, even for people who are actively positive – an idea Costa appears sympathetic to.

“The next step I think is to consider the idea of even eliminating the quarantine, perhaps by wearing a mask and therefore being able to go to work,” he told reporters.

“We must review the criteria for isolation, to avoid blocking the country again”.

At least one health expert, however, was unenthusiastic about the proposal.

Dr Nino Cartabellotta, head of Italy’s evidence-based medicine group Gimbe, tweeted on Tuesday: “There are currently no epidemiological or public health reasons to abolish the isolation of Covid-19 positives”

Massimo Andreoni, professor of Infectious Diseases at the Faculty of Medicine and Surgery of the Tor Vergata University of Rome, was more ambivalent about the prospect.

The isolation requirement for asymptomatic cases should be “revised somewhat in the light of the epidemiological data”, he told reporters, but urged “a minimum of precaution, because the less the virus circulates and the fewer severe cases there are, the fewer new variants arise”.

When the question was last raised at the end of June, Health Minister Roberto Speranza was firmly against the idea of lifting quarantine requirements for people who were Covid positive.

“At the moment such a thing is not in question,” he told newspaper La Repubblica at the time. “Anyone who is infected must stay at home.”

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