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HEALTH

Covid-19: Italy declares three regions ‘red zones’ under new restrictions

Three Italian regions will return to near-lockdown on Sunday, the government has announced, as coronavirus infections continue to rise.

Covid-19: Italy declares three regions 'red zones' under new restrictions
Milan and the surrounding Lombardy region will become a 'red zone' under new restrctions. Photo: AFP

The northern region of Lombardy, the island of Sicily and the autonomous province of South Tyrol will become “red zones” with only supermarkets, pharmacies and other stores selling basic necessities left open.

Health Minister Roberto Speranza will sign an ordinance later on Friday making the changes official, with the new classifications based on the latest health ministry data.

“This week confirms the general worsening of the epidemiological situation in the country already observed the previous week,” read the report from the Higher Health Institure (ISS) and the health ministry.

The rise in infections was “relatively contained thanks to the mitigation measures adopted during the holiday period” – however the strict measures had not been able to stop new infections from spiking in some areas.

In Naples, for example, infections are up by 18% after the Christmas holidays.

Speranza said the worsening infection rates in Italy “cannot be underestimated” in a country that has already suffered almost 81,000 dead since the pandemic began early last year.

Under the national tiered system, with rules changing based on the level of contagion risk, nine of Italy's 20 regions move up from “yellow” to “orange” zones, to make a total of 12 in that category.

This means Italy's regions will be classified as follows from Sunday January 17th:

Red zones: Lombardy, Sicily, Bolzano

Orange zones: Abruzzo, Friuli Venezia Giulia, Lazio, Liguria, Marche, Piedmont, Puglia, Umbria and Valle D'Aosta, are turning yellow to orange, joining Calabria, Emilia-Romagna and Veneto, which are currently orange and will remain so.
 
Campania, Sardinia, Basilicata, Tuscany, Molise and the autonomous province of Trento will remain yellow zones.
 
In red and orange areas, restaurants and bars are closed except for take-away and delivery.

In orange zones shops are open, although malls are shut on public holidays.

A nighttime curfew remains in effect throughout the country from 10pm to 5am and gyms, pools and theatres remain closed. 

Earlier on Friday, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte announced a new emergency decree which keeps the current ban on non-essential movement between regions in force untl at least February 15th. 

Travel between regions is allowed for work, health, or other essential reasons.

New 'white zones'

Under the new emergency decree, Italy is also adding an extra tier to its system of varying restrictions: white, reserved for parts of the country where the coronavirus risk is lowest. 

These areas will be exempt from the restrictions in place in yellow, orange or red zones, including the nightly curfew and 6pm closing time for bars and restaurants.

To qualify, regions must have fewer than 50 cases per 100,000 inhabitants for three weeks straight, as well as showing other positive indicators such as a low reproduction number and effective tracing system.

None of Italy's 20 regions currently meet the criteria, under the latest health data; the region that comes closest is Tuscany, where the rate of incidence is still around three times higher than it would need to be.

Note: Some rules may vary under local or regional restrictions in Italy. It is recommended that you also check the rules set by your town and region. Find out how to do that in a separate article here.

For further details on the current coronavirus situation in Italy, please see the Health Ministry's website (in English).

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TRAVEL NEWS

Covid face mask rule on flights in Europe set to be eased

The mandatory EU-wide mask requirement for air travel is set to be dropped from Monday, May 16th, but airlines may still require passengers to wear masks on some or all flights

Covid face mask rule on flights in Europe set to be eased

Europe-wide facemask rules on flights are set to be ditched as early as next week in light of new recommendations from health and air safety experts.

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) dropped recommendations for mandatory mask-wearing in airports and during flights in updated Covid-19 safety measures for travel issued on Wednesday, May 11th.

The new rules are expected to be rolled out from Monday, May 16th, but airlines may still continue to require the wearing of masks on some or all of flights. And the updated health safety measures still say that wearing a face mask remains one of the best ways to protect against the transmission of the virus.

The joint EASA/ECDC statement reminded travellers that masks may still be required on flights to destinations in certain countries that still require the wearing of masks on public transport and in transport hubs.

It also recommends that vulnerable passengers should continue to wear a face mask regardless of the rules, ideally an FFP2/N95/KN95 type mask which offers a higher level of protection than a standard surgical mask.

“From next week, face masks will no longer need to be mandatory in air travel in all cases, broadly aligning with the changing requirements of national authorities across Europe for public transport,” EASA executive director Patrick Ky said in the statement. 

“For passengers and air crews, this is a big step forward in the normalisation of air travel. Passengers should however behave responsibly and respect the choices of others around them. And a passenger who is coughing and sneezing should strongly consider wearing a face mask, for the reassurance of those seated nearby.”  

ECDC director Andrea Ammon added: “The development and continuous updates to the Aviation Health Safety Protocol in light of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic have given travellers and aviation personnel better knowledge of the risks of transmission of SARS-CoV-2 and its variants. 

“While risks do remain, we have seen that non-pharmaceutical interventions and vaccines have allowed our lives to begin to return to normal. 

“While mandatory mask-wearing in all situations is no longer recommended, it is important to be mindful that together with physical distancing and good hand hygiene it is one of the best methods of reducing transmission. 

“The rules and requirements of departure and destination states should be respected and applied consistently, and travel operators should take care to inform passengers of any required measures in a timely manner.”

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