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Until when will Italy’s state of emergency be extended?

With the current state of alarm period set to end on January 31 and Covid-19 infections on the rise, several Italian newspapers have reported that Conte’s government is considering two possible dates for the extension of the country’s emergency status.

Until when will Italy's state of emergency be extended?
Photos: AFP

Italy recorded more than 15,000 new coronavirus infections and 649 deaths on Tuesday January 5, further cementing the government’s fears that a third wave of the coronavirus is on its way despite a promising start to the country’s vaccination campaign.

Hopes in early December that the country could begin to reopen in January have now been dashed, and the extension of restrictions from January 7 have now been confirmed.

READ MORE: How will Italy’s rules coronavirus rules change in January?

What is yet to be decided is how long the country’s state of emergency will go on for, with the current state of alarm due to end on January 31st.

Italy’s state of emergency does not determine the emergency rules and restrictions and it's not the same thing as an emergency decree.

Italy’s stato di emergenza allows Italian officials to bypass much of the bureaucracy that often slows down decision-making.
 
It gives greater powers to both the national government and to regional authorities, and allows the Prime Minister to introduce, change, and revoke rules quickly via emergency decrees.

Several leading Italian newspapers including La Stampa and Il Messaggero are now reporting that the government is considering extending this emergency status until July 31st.

Italy first declared the state of emergency in late January 2020 after the first two cases of Covid-19 were detected in the country, in two Chinese tourists in Rome.

The current end date means the state of emergency will have been in place for one year.

If it is extended until July, the country could end up being under a state of emergency for at least a year and a half.

The other date being suggested in the Italian press is March 31st, a shorter extension which would largely depend on progress made in terms of vaccines and herd immunity.

Italian law states that the duration of a national state of emergency cannot exceed 12 months and can be extended for no more than a further 12 months.

But this does not mean that this particular series of states of emergency can last for two years until January 2022, as the 12-month extension period starts with the first extension, which began on July 31st 2020.

This suggests that Italy’s Covid ‘stato de emergenza’ will end at the very latest on July 31st 2021.

Italy's PM Giuseppe Conte already hinted there'd soon be an extension of the state of emergency at his end-of-year press conference.

For Agostino Miozzo, lead coordinator of Italy's Technical-Scientific Committee for Covid-19 (CTS), which advises the government on health policy, “extending the state of emergency seems inevitable and it will at least be necessary for it to last until late spring”.

What it does do is give greater powers to both the national government and to regional authorities, and it was declared in order to allow the Prime Minister to introduce, change, and revoke rules quickly, via emergency decrees, in response to the ever-changing epidemiological situation.

Since the start of the pandemic Italy has reported 2.1 million infections and 76,329 deaths from Covid-19.

As of January 6 2021, the country had vaccinated 260,000 people in its first week of Covid inoculations.  

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COVID-19

Covid-19: Are Italian live events at risk of being postponed?

As the infection rate rises sharply across the country, Italian virologists are calling for concerts and festivals to be rescheduled.

Covid-19: Are Italian live events at risk of being postponed?

Italy has seen a large increase in the number of Covid-19 cases in recent days, so much so that a number of virologists across the country are now urging the government to postpone major live events in a bid to curb infections. 

According to a new report by Italy’s independent health watchdog, the Gimbe Foundation, 595,349 new cases were recorded in the week from June 29th to July 5th; a worrying 55 percent increase on the previous week. 

In the same time span, the country also registered a 32.8 percent rise in the number of hospitalised patients, which went from 6,035 to 8,003.  

The latest Covid wave, which is being driven by the highly contagious Omicron 5 variant, is a “real cause for concern”, especially in terms of a “potential patient overload”, said Nino Cartabellotta, president of the Gimbe Foundation. 

As Italian cities prepare to host a packed calendar of concerts and festivals this summer, health experts are questioning whether such events should actually take place given the high risk of transmission associated with mass gatherings.

READ ALSO: What tourists in Italy need to know if they get Covid-19

“Rescheduling these types of events would be the best thing to do right now,” said Massimo Ciccozzi, Director of Epidemiology at Campus Bio-Medico University of Rome. 

The summer wave is expected to peak in mid-July but, Ciccozzi warns, the upcoming live events might “delay [the peak] until the end of July or even beyond” and extend the infection curve.

Antonello Maruotti, Professor of Statistics at LUMSA University of Rome, recently shared Ciccozzi’s concerns, saying that live events as big as Maneskin’s scheduled Rome concert are “definitely not a good idea”. 

The Italian rock band are slated to perform at the Circus Maximus on Saturday, July 9th but the expected turnout – over 70,000 fans are set to attend the event – has raised objections from an array of Italian doctors, with some warning that the concert might cause as many as 20,000 new cases.

If it were to materialise, the prospected scenario would significantly aggravate Lazio’s present medical predicament as there are currently over 186,000 Covid cases in the region (nearly 800 patients are receiving treatment in local hospitals). 

Italian rock band Maneskin performing in Turin

Italian rock band Maneskin are expected to perform at the Circus Maximus in Rome on Saturday, July 9th. Photo by Marco BERTORELLO / AFP

But, despite pleas to postpone the event, it is likely that Maneskin’s concert will take place as scheduled.

Alessandro Onorato, Rome’s Tourism Councillor, said that rescheduling is “out of question” and that “all recommendations from the local medical authorities will be adopted” with the help of the event’s organisers and staff on the ground.

At the time of writing, there is also no indication that the Italian government will consider postponing other major live events scheduled to take place in the coming weeks, though the situation is evolving rapidly and a U-turn on previous dispositions can’t be ruled out.

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

On this note, it is worth mentioning that Italy has now scrapped all of its former Covid measures except the requirement to wear FFP2 face masks on public transport (though not on planes) and in healthcare settings.

The use of face coverings is, however, still recommended in all crowded areas, including outdoors – exactly the point that leading Italian doctors are stressing in the hope that live events will not lead to large-scale infection.

Antonio Magi, President of Rome’s OMCEO (College of Doctors, Surgeons and Dentists), said: “Our advice is to wear FFP2 masks […] in high-risk situations.”

“I hope that young people will heed our recommendations and think about the health risks that their parents or grandparents might be exposed to after the event [they attend].”

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