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HEALTH

REMINDER: What are the rules in Italy’s Covid-19 ‘yellow zones’?

Italy has relaxed the coronavirus restrictions in most of its 20 regions. Here's a reminder of what that means for you.

REMINDER: What are the rules in Italy's Covid-19 'yellow zones'?
Restaurants open for lunch in Milan, Lombardy. Photo: Miguel Medina/AFP

Most of Italy's regions have been “yellow” since February 1st, under the national colour-coded system of yellow, orange and red that indicates coronavirus risk and the restrictions in place.

Based on the latest regional contagion data reported by the Health Ministry and Higher Health Institute, authorities announced on February 5th that risk levels would be kept low in most parts of the country – with the exception of Alto Adige (South Tyrol), which entered lockdown on Monday, February 8th due to a high infection rate.
 
 
Regions are now classified as follows:
 
Red zones: No regions are classed as red zones.
 
Orange zones: Puglia, Sicily, Umbria, the autonomous province of Bolzano.
 
Yellow zones: All other regions: Abruzzo, Calabria, Campania, Basilicata, Emilia Romagna, Friuli Venezia Giulia, Lazio, Lombardy, Liguria, Marche, Molise, Piedmont, autonomous province of Trento, Tuscany, Valle d'Aosta, Veneto.
 

 
What are the 'yellow zone' rules?:
 
We may think we know the rules by now, as this system has been in place since November 6th.  However, the government has made several changes since then.
 
As regions turn yellow, this allows the daytime reopening of bars and restaurants, and greater freedom to travel within the region.
 
While this will no doubt be a relief to people living in these areas, the health ministry stressed that the downgrade does not mean a total relaxation of the rules.
 
“Being in a yellow zone does not mean the danger has passed,” Health Minister Roberto Speranza has cautioned. “We still need the utmost caution if we do not want to go back on the progress made in recent weeks.”
 
Here's what you can do:
 
In yellow zones, bars and restaurants can stay open until 6pm, including on Sundays. Takeaway service is allowed until 10pm for restaurants and until 6pm for bars, while there are no time limits for home delivery.
 
Museums reopen, but only on weekdays, therefore from Monday to Friday.
 
 
High schools can return to in-person teaching for 50 to 75 percent of classes.
 
For middle and elementary schools, face-to-face teaching continues, with masks required for children over six years old.
 
You can visit friends or relatives, but the following rules apply: You can travel to another private home in your region or autonomous province once a day between the hours of 5am-10pm. No more than two adult visitors are allowed, though children under 14 (from the same family) are not counted.
 

Travel to reach second homes outside the region is permitted, regardless of the colour of the region of origin and the region of arrival. You will need documents proving ownership or residency, and a completed self-certification form.

 
Travel to return home or to a place of residence is allowed, regardless of zone.
 
Barbers and hairdressers are open in all zones.
 
Outdoor 'motor activity' exercise is allowed (e.g. jogging and walking) in all zones.

 
Here's which rules stay in place:
 
The evening curfew remains in place from 10pm-5am across the whole country. If you need to go out during those hours, you'll need to take a completed self-certification form.
 
A ban on non-essential travel between regions remains in place, regardless of zone colour.
 
Cinemas, theatres, betting halls, game rooms, discos, ballrooms, concert halls, gyms, swimming pools, theme parks, spas and wellness centres remain closed.
 
Shops are open, but malls and outlet centres are closed on weekends.
 
Ski resorts stay closed until at least February 15th, subject to authorisation by the regional authorities.

 
Please be aware that different regions of Italy may have additional local restrictions. Check the latest rules where you are: find out how to do that here.
 
For more information please see the Italian Health Ministry's website (in English).

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HEALTH

Q&A: What you need to know about Italy’s West Nile virus outbreak

As Italy records a surge in cases of West Nile fever, we look at what the disease is and where in the country it's spreading.

Q&A: What you need to know about Italy's West Nile virus outbreak

Mosquitos are unfortunately one downside of summer in Italy. But as well as being a nuisance, they may also pose a health risk in the country – one of the few in Europe to record cases of West Nile virus (WNV)

READ ALSO: Cases of West Nile fever surge in northern Italy

Last week Italy recorded 50 more cases of the mosquito-borne virus, bringing the total number of infections to 144 according to the latest report from Italy’s Higher Health Institute (ISS).

This marked a 53-percent increase in cases against the previous week, while ten people have died so far.

As the number of infections continues to rise, here are the answers to the most pressing questions about the disease and the outbreak in Italy.

What is it?

The West Nile Virus (WNV) is a single-stranded RNA virus that can cause West Nile fever in humans.

It’s a member of the Flavivirus family together with other endemic viruses such as the Zika and Dengue viruses.

The virus was first identified in 1937 in Uganda’s West Nile district but has since spread to many other parts of the world, to the point that it is now considered indigenous to Africa, the Middle East, Asia and Australia. 

Carried by birds, West Nile virus is transmitted to humans by mosquitoes.

The West Nile virus is primarily transmitted by mosquitoes of the Culex species, which infect humans and other mammals through their bite, according to Italy’s health ministry.

There is no evidence that human-to-human transmission is possible.

Where are cases being reported in Italy?

Infections have been largely concentrated in the north of the country, especially in the Veneto region, where six people have now died of the disease. Other deaths were recorded in Lombardy, Piedmont and Emilia-Romagna.

The city of Padua, which is located in Veneto’s mainland, around 35 kilometres away from the Adriatic coast, is currently regarded as the hotspot of the virus. 

It isn’t yet clear why Veneto has been the worst-hit region so far, but experts fear that its marshy lowlands might be the perfect breeding ground for disease-carrying mosquitoes. 

A mosquito of the Culex species viewed under a microscope.

Mosquitoes of the Culex species, a specimen of which is pictured above, are responsible for transmitting the West Nile Virus to humans and other mammals. Photo by Jon CHERRY Getty Images / AFP

How severe is the outbreak in Italy?

West Nile virus is not new to Italy. However, this summer has brought the highest number of cases recorded yet.

National infection levels remain relatively low but the country has by far the largest number of cases in Europe.

According to the most recent report from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), dated August 3rd, 94 out of 120 recorded cases were in Italy.

Greece had 23 reported cases. Romania and Slovakia had two and one respectively. 

Italy is the only European country that has reported fatalities.

What are the symptoms?

According to the Italian Higher Health Institute (ISS), around 80 percent of infected people show no symptoms whatsoever.

In symptomatic cases, however, symptoms generally resemble those of a common flu and include fever, headaches, nausea and diarrhoea. 

The infection is usually only dangerous for people with weakened immune systems such as the elderly, and the most severe symptoms occur in fewer than one percent of infected people.

In healthy people, the virus is unlikely to cause more than a headache or sore throat, and symptoms generally last only a few days.

According to the data currently available, around one in 150 infected people can show symptoms as serious as partial vision loss, convulsions and paralysis. 

In very rare cases (around 0.1 percent, or one in 1000) the disease can cause brain infections (encephalitis or meningitis) which may eventually be fatal.

Brazilian biologists handle mosquito larvae.

There is currently no vaccine against West Nile disease, though several are being tested. Photo by Apu GOMES / AFP

Is there a cure?

There is no vaccine against West Nile fever. “Currently vaccines are being studied, but for the moment prevention consists mainly in reducing exposure to mosquito bites,” the ISS states.

There is also no specific treatment for the disease caused by the virus.

Patients showing the more serious symptoms are usually admitted to hospital and treated with IV fluids and assisted ventilation.

What should you do to protect yourself?

Seeing as there is currently no vaccine against the virus, the best way to protect oneself is by reducing exposure to mosquitoes as much as possible.

Italian health authorities have listed a number of official recommendations to help residents avoid mosquito bites. These include: 

  • Use repellent
  • Wear long-sleeved shirts and long trousers when being outdoors and especially during ​​mosquitoes’ peak activity times, i.e. sunrise and sunset
  • Use mosquito nets on your windows or sleep in rooms with air-conditioning and keep the windows closed
  • Make sure there are no pools of stagnant water around your house

See more information about West Nile virus in Italy on the health ministry’s website.

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