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

Face masks will remain obligatory on Italian public transport - but not on flights - until the end of September following a recent rise in the contagion rate, the health ministry has confirmed.

The use of high-grade Ffp2 masks will remain mandatory on public transport in Italy until June 15th.
The use of high-grade Ffp2 masks will remain mandatory on public transport in Italy until September 30th. Photo by Miguel MEDINA / AFP

As expected, Italy’s remaining rules on wearing masks in certain public places will end from Thursday, except for on most forms of public transport, in healthcare settings, and in care homes.

The change was confirmed in an ordinance signed by the health minister, Roberto Speranza, late on Wednesday following a cabinet meeting.

The mask mandate will continue to apply to all forms of local and long-distance public transport within the country until at least September 30th, including on buses, trains, trams, and ferries, the ordinance states.

However flights are not mentioned in the new ordinance, as ministers have reportedly chosen to lift the rules for air passengers entirely.

The mask-wearing requirement in cinemas, theatres, concert halls, and at indoor sporting events has also been dropped.

Schools will not require pupils to wear a mask when sitting final exams, though masks continue to be recommended during exams and on school premises.

As existing rules expired on Wednesday, June 15th, the changes come in almost immediately from Thursday, June 16th.

No further details of the rule changes were immediately confirmed.

The government is expected to publish a decree in the coming days containing full details of the updated regulations.

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

From Thursday the Covid vaccination obligation also comes to an end for over-50s in Italy, but remains in place for healthcare and care home staff until at least the end of the year.

Local authorities and individual businesses in Italy can still set different rules than those at the national level, meaning certain rules may continue to vary from one place to another.

The government had initially planned to scrap rules on wearing masks everywhere other than in healthcare settings under its ‘roadmap’ first set out in March, but the health minister has reportedly taken a more cautious line amid rising infection rates.

After weeks of steadily falling infection rates overall in Italy, the contagion curve has now risen again, from a seven-day average of 15,000 last week to 21,000 this week.

An uptick in new infections has now been reported in 14 of Italy’s 21 regions and autonomous provinces.

There is particular concern about local spikes in cities, such as Milan, where the daily number of new confirmed cases shot up from 261 to 1,095 within the space of a week.

The recent increase in Italy, as in other countries including Portugal and Germany, is thought to be due to the spread of the coronavirus sub-variant BA.5, which the Italian Higher Health Institute (ISS) says is more contagious and has a greater ability to circumvent immunity given by vaccines.

Current estimates of the number of cases in Italy caused by BA.5 range from 1.4 percent to 13 percent of new infections.

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

Member comments

  1. What a ridiculous backward decision, Italy forever living in the past. The country has lost its flair over the last two years and this is just another sorry milestone of its descent into insignificance as the clowns in Brussels increasingly rule the roost. It’s reputation for social disobedience has morphed into a country of cucciolini. Che delusione!

  2. So does it mean the school year 2022/2023 in Italy will have mandatory mask use again for the year?

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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.”