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Which parts of Italy could be declared Covid risk zones in August?

Which parts of Italy could be declared Covid risk zones in August?
Northern Sardinia. Photo by Andreas SOLARO / AFP
With Italy's peak summer season well underway, some regions may lose their low-risk 'white zone' status this month amid a worsening Covid-19 health situation - while some localised 'red zones' have already been declared. Here are the latest indications on which regions could face tighter restrictions based on health data.

Two Italian regions are at risk of moving into a low-moderate risk ‘yellow zone’ in the coming weeks, according to the latest government figures.

The islands of Sardinia and Sicily have both recorded rates of infections and hospitalisations which approach the threshold for new restrictions to be imposed.

Reader question: What happens if I test positive for Covid-19 while visiting Italy?

Infections are thought to be soaring on the popular holiday islands, with large number of visitors from Italy and abroad travelling there for summer holidays.

While Sardinia had planned to increase health checks on tourists and enforce mandatory testing on arrival this summer, controls have reportedly been lowered instead as the island’s services are diverted to fighting wildfires all across the region.

According to Agenas (The National Agency for Health Services) data, Sardinia now has the highest incidence of weekly cases per 100,000 inhabitants of any Italian region, reaching 142 – approaching the maximum limit of 150 necessary to remain in the low-restriction ‘white zone’.

The Italian government changed the risk criteria in May, affecting how and when a region moves into a higher tier and the rules that follow.

Under the new parameters, a region will move from ‘white’ to a ‘yellow’ zone if the following thresholds are reached at the same time:

  • The incidence of weekly cases of infection per 100,000 inhabitants is between 50 and 150.
  • The occupancy rate of intensive care units exceeds 10 percent.
  • Occupancy reaches 15 percent in the case of general hospital wards.

Sardinia has already exceeded two of these three parameters for leaving the white zone and would therefore be likely to be the first region to have health measures reimposed.

The island’s incidence rate is over 100 cases per 100,000 inhabitants and the occupancy rate in intensive care is 11 percent.

In fact, according to Agenas (The National Agency for Health Services) data, Sardinia has the worst incidence of weekly cases per 100,000 inhabitants of any Italian region, reaching 142.03.

How Sardinia’s incident rate is increasing on a weekly basis. Source: Agenas

Sicily could also lose its ‘white zone’ status this month, as the region has reached 14 percent occupancy of beds – just one point below the 15 percent threshold.

Meanwhile in intensive care, Sicily has recorded 7.1 percent occupancy.

It has also exceeded the threshold of 50 infections per 100,000 inhabitants by registering over 104.55 Covid-19 cases.

The trends mean that these islands could move into a ‘yellow zone’ within 10-17 days, claimed Giovanni Sebastiani from the Computation of the National Research Council (CNR).

Although not meeting all three parameters to lose ‘white zone’ status, several other regions are also recording higher incidence rates, with Tuscany following Sardinia and Sicily at 119.73 – up from 94.5 the week before.

Italy’s overall increasing incidence rate – not as steep as some individual regions. Source: Agenas

Another 11 regions have between 50 and 100 cases per 100,000 inhabitants, including Basilicata, Calabria, Campania, Emilia Romagna, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Lazio, Liguria, Marche, Umbria, Valle d’Aosta and Veneto.

What happens if a region is declared a ‘yellow zone’?

Should any region move from white to yellow, the main difference in rules is the obligation to wear a face mask in all public places, both indoors and outdoors.

There would also be a return to limits on how many people can be seated together in restaurants and on seating indoors.

There is no curfew, since that was dropped nationwide in June.

More severe restrictions can also be decided from town to town, as the Italian authorities have the right to enforce tighter measures on a local level in order to contain the spread of the virus and protest local health services.

The first localised ‘red zones’ for months were declared in the southern region of Calabria in recent days, meaning the toughest restrictions apply in two municipalities.

The acting president of the Calabria Region, Nino Spirlì, signed an order which came into force on August 7th for the towns of Africo and Bagaladi, which remains in place until and August 17th and 18th respectively.

He noted “an exponential growth of infections among the resident population, which determines a high incidence, with 52 confirmed active cases of which 92 percent recorded in the last 6 days, among a population of about 3,300 inhabitants”.

Photo: Filippo Monteforte/AFP

Calabria has a low incidence rate per inhabitant, but the high rate of occupancy of beds for Covid patients prompted the regional authorities to establish fresh restrictions.

The rate is 57.1 per 100,000, while the occupancy rate for hospital beds is already 11 percent.

Calabria has been quick to impose restrictions as its regional health infrastructure is particularly fragile. The poorest region in Italy, it has suffered long-running problems with a dysfunctonal healthcare system and lack of funding caused or worsened by mafia infiltration and corruption in local government. 

Further restrictions could be imposed locally in future in any part of the country that sees a spike in cases putting strain on its health services.

All regions and autonomous provinces are currently classified as having a moderate epidemic risk, according to the latest weekly health data.

“The estimated transmissibility on hospitalised cases alone is above the epidemic threshold,” stated the report.

Italian authorities pointed to the Delta variant as having significant impact on the latest figures, describing it as “largely prevalent in Italy”.

The report added that the variant is associated with an increase in the number of new cases of infection, even if vaccination coverage is high.

The Italian government made its ‘green pass’ health certificate mandatory from August 6th at many cultural and leisure venues as part of efforts to control the spread of the virus and avoid the need for new restrictions or limitations on businesses during the peak summer season.


Member comments

  1. The changing of risk zone status should be based on deaths, not cases. This madness is driving people crazy. It’s not as though we lived with zero risk before covid. It’s not as though the natural state of life on earth is supposed to be zero risk. And, it’s not as though there aren’t any negative repercussions to covid restrictions.

    1. Thank you Brad!!! Why am I not reading this anywhere else – is it that those who think this way are afraid of speaking? It’s impossible even to find info on these cases – symptomatic? Asymptomatic? No one “reports” on anything but cases..

    2. The problem is that deaths follow infection by several weeks, so if measures are taken only in response to deaths, then you will have several weeks of upcoming deaths that are no longer preventable.

      So the cases today are used to estimate what the deaths will (or would) be weeks from no while it can still be affected.

      1. I hear you, however, Delta was worst in India because they were behind on vaccination and they have a very high population crowded in very close. Delta has been spreading around the UK basically at will for a couple months now and deaths are not hand have not been close to as bad as they were during spikes of covid before. Think about it this way. Look at Germany and the autobahn. Some people wish they had stretches with zero speed limit in their countries, some people think it’s crazy. There is no doubt however that more people have died because they have stretches of highway with no speed limit. In fact, if we’re all in to protecting every single life possible with this, why don’t we just lower the speed limit to 45 km/h everywhere? It’s just a restriction, it’s just the “new normal.” In ten years it will save millions of lives.

      2. The reason nobody is talking about deaths and focusing so much on infection rates when “reporting” on delta is that the ratio of deaths to infections is very very low now. Especially in comparison to covid pre vaccines. It’s like a flu ratio at this point. Even in the UK where Delta has been running rampant for a couple months now.

        1. The death ratio means that we can tolerate a higher case load, once everyone has been given a reasonable opportunity to be fully vaccinated. Before then we would be sacrificing those that we put at the back of the vaccination queue.

          Once we’re all set with vaccines, then we still have to look at the cases to make any decisions because the deaths, even if they are fewer, appear when it’s too late to avoid quite a few more.

          1. At what point are we “all set” with the vaccines? When newborns are given them? Right now the most vulnerable have had the opportunity to get them. That’s why deaths are down. That fact combined with the growing realization that the people who have gotten the vaccine are more likely to contract covid than the people who had covid and got over it, albeit the vaccine makes new infection less dangerous. The reality is, the people who caught covid and got over it have better protection than the people who got the vaccine.

      3. Delta has been saturating the UK for a couple months now. Vaccinated people are still contracting it and spreading it. Deaths in the UK are nowhere near what they were at the beginning of the pandemic. They are even allowing full stadiums for the Premier League. The deaths will never reach the level they were pre-vaccines. We need to accept that life carries risk and open up and live like normal human beings again.

  2. It’s interesting how the variants are spreading in Italy even though most uk travellers have decided not to go to Italy due to quarantine restrictions placed on us. So it must be other visitors who are not facing the same restrictions that are bringing it in? as in the UK where cases are in decline. I am due to get married in Italy next month after having to move my wedding twice already, so I am really hoping that Italy gets some control over this situation. I hear cases are growing rapidly in the US so maybe it’s time those travellers had to quarantine too upon arrival to Italy.

    1. Maybe the variant is not being transmitted from country to country so much as it is the natural development of a mutating virus. The simple truth is this virus is here to stay. We need to learn to live with it and not shut down again. It will surge, peak and retreat, only to show up in another mutation. This is what respiratory virus’s do.

        1. Because those in charge (politicians) always believe that they are smarter then the common people they represent. We are to foolish or ignorant to make decisions for ourselves. They feed off of power and only crave more. This applies to every country

  3. We have just arrived at our home in Lazio (Sabina) having travelled from our home in Warsaw, Poland. WAW to FCO. We are both double jabbed and tested and had assiduously assembled all the documentation, vaccine certificate, passenger locator form etc. Nobody checked anything, either on departure or on arrival. There was an automated overhead temperature checker at FCO but nobody was watching the monitors.
    In contrast,on the the reverse journey, a month ago, from FCO to WAW we were met at WAW by a line of large, fit young men, armed border guards in combat gear, who checked every document/phone carefully and courteously. Anybody without the requisite docs was funnelled into a testing area, nobody argued… There was no queue as there were about fifteen guards doing the checking. I am no fan of travel restrictions of any kind, or of Polish bureaucracy and current Government, but if the authorities have to take action in a serious public health situation, they may as well do it properly and effectively. Poland 1 Italy 0… but nobody wins if they get ill.

  4. It’s the age-old concept: control those things you can control; influence those things you can influence. While we may not be able to STOP the spread, we can influence the SPEED of transmission, and this must be based on cases, not deaths. As logi quite rightly pointed out, waiting for the death rate is weeks too late: we should always give people the chance to vaccinate as well as reduce the chances of a mutation appearing that beats our vaccines.
    Holding up the UK as an example of correct behaviour is laughable: if there were a league table showing where the deadly mutation is most likely to form, the UK would be in the “top ten” owing to “Trump Jr.” and his lackeys!

    1. You can control the speed limits on highways. Why not lower them to 30 mph? In ten years you’d save more lives than covid ever took. Your belief about death rates doesn’t follow if you look at the UK. Delta has been saturated there for a couple months. Yes deaths have gone up there but they are nowhere near what they were at the beginning of the pandemic. This situation is the age-old risk/reward conundrum. In reality the risk is much much less now than it was at the beginning of the pandemic. The risk now is along the lines of any number of hundreds of things we could change about how we live that could save lives. In fact each of us could just become agoraphobes and we’d be much much safer in the long run. Even before covid, leaving your house was a risk, it’s just that the reward made it worth it.

    2. Look at the WHO’s chart of cases and deaths for the UK. In the first two spikes deaths were extremely high, in the third spike (after vaccines) the deaths are not following the spikes in cases. In fact, the chart shows what usually happens with respiratory diseases. The first spike had a very high death/case ratio because it was novel, we weren’t prepared and there were a lot of people who were vulnerable, i.e. old people/overweight people/people with co-morbidities. The second spike showed that people were being less careful about restrictions than they were at the beginning. The cases spiked much higher than at the beginning, as did the deaths, but if you calculate the death/case ratio it was actually a little lower precisely because many of the most at risk were already dead. The third spike, post vaccines, is showing a continuation of that trend. Cases are again going sky high, but notice deaths are not following the way they did before. The actual case/death ratio is much much lower now. More like the normal flu usually is. That is because the most at risk have been vaccinated, or unfortunately didn’t make it through the previous two spikes. This is the reality.

    3. Here is what the WHO’s own chart is showing for the UK. On the week of 5th July 2021 there were 210,000 new cases. Three weeks after that there were 524 deaths. Now, on the week of 14th December 2020 (pre vaccines) there were about 214,000 new cases. Three weeks after that there 6,298 deaths. In other words, for the same amount of cases there were 12x the number of deaths. This will most likely be the ratio that continues through the winter. Cases will spike but deaths will be much much less than what they were last winter. It’s also possible that delta is so prevalent right now that cases might not even spike as much as they did last winter as protection after infection is as good as getting the vaccine if not better and we’re getting to the point where the vast majority of the population has either been vaccinated or exposed.

    4. By the way, the scenario I laid out for the UK from the WHO’s chart is exactly the same for every country.

  5. Hello we are visiting Italy: USA NYC- FCO then to olb ( Sardinia) we are fully vaccinated. Do you think there will be restrictions in Sardinia? Sicily? Roma?
    We are not going to Florida or anywhere in America where the virus is bad. We all have The Moderna vaccine…

  6. Thanks Brad,
    Yes it is risk/reward and, therefore, a political decision how much risk a government is prepared to accept for the perceived rewards. We know that with the current vaccines the death rate is much lower, and, of course, COVID has already killed a large number of those people who would otherwise feature now. The point is that a government that does not implement measures to reduce transmission is playing with fire, it runs the very real risk of producing a variant that beats the vaccine protections we already have in place; please see the recent SAGE reports on this subject.
    Yes, it may happen anyway but, by encouraging a virus to spread in crowded venues, it is much more likely to occur.
    My problem with allowing people to make up their own minds in this area is that many, particularly the risk-taking young, will enjoy the clubbing and concerts (and who can blame them!) and not register what they may be inadvertently brewing there.
    In Germany, unlike the UK, I am happy to note that we are not prepared to take this risk, as evidenced by the recent COVID planning meeting of the federation’s prime ministers: measures will continue to be implemented at certain levels of infection, not death, to reduce transmission.
    Here are the Johns Hopkins figures for
    1. Total COVID deaths/100,000 population: Germany 109, UK 196; and
    2. Total COVID deaths In the past month: Germany 615, UK 2346
    As we used to say, when I was flying fast jets for Her Majesty; hope for the best but PLAN for the worst!

    1. I appreciate your perspective. I just think that at this point the restrictions aren’t justified because the deaths are manageable. I think one thing that you could add to your perspective is the calculation of the negative repercussions that go along with restrictions. Alcoholism has skyrocketed, what are the repercussions health wise for that down the road? Depression has skyrocketed. Small businesses are going out of business, being bought up by the wealthy and large corporations. The last 1.5 years has seen one of the largest upward transfers of wealth from the middle class to upper class in centuries. There are even negative repercussions to sanitization, mask wearing and social distancing. It weakens our immune systems to say nothing of the negative mental health aspect of viewing other human beings not as human beings but as potential vectors for disease. Add all these things to the calculation. Add also the fact that pre covid there were any number of things we could restrict about life to make it safer. Again, the speed limit point is probably the best analogy out there. Everybody should be forced to drive slow, even on the freeway. You just have to add a little more time to your planning. Call it the “new normal.” In 20 years when covid is a memory, millions of people’s lives will still be being saved because of the reduced driving risks.

    2. Also, yes the virus could mutate more, however it looks like those who caught covid and recovered have as good if not better protection as the people vaccinated and we’re getting to the point where you add up the people who have got covid and the people with the vaccines and the virus is running out of people to infect. Also, there is no rule that mutations have to be worse. In fact over time typically viruses like this eventually mutate to a less deadly form, something that resembles the regular flu. That’s what will probably happen with covid.

    3. Typically “the worst” happens when we’re out in the world interacting with other people, driving, living life. To plan for it we could all just stay home forever. Maybe become agoraphobes. Order all we need from Amazon. Then we’d be safe.

      1. Thanks Brad,
        Again it comes down to what a nation is prepared to accept – to take your driving analogy, Germany does not have a speed limit on large stretches of its motorways (yet!), the US has very little gun control. So why not improve automobile/weapons/funeral sales by removing restrictions?
        But, as someone pointed out elsewhere, automobile/gun deaths are not transmissible – alcoholism/depression/wealth wander are also not. I am not talking about locking yourself away but I am talking about what I, and my adopted country, perceive as a “sensible” level of restrictions to perhaps “help” the virus attain a less deadly dominant strain through planned containment restrictions. Yes, it may be completely in vain but it helps us believe we have some measure of control, which, of course, is very important in Germany!
        My problem comes with what I believe is a reckless lack of restrictions. As I alluded to in my last post, the UK has a current death rate from COVID that is, relative to population size, 5x that of Germany. Yes, we’re all going to die someday but did those UK citizens have to die now? How many of these people were young or fit or breadwinners? Is it living with COVID or Russian Roulette with COVID?
        I think it is a national tragedy that has been “swept under the carpet” by a UK government that doesn’t care for anything other than the economy, especially for its buddies in the City. And if “Tory Donor” corporations are allowed to target small businesses, whose fault is that?
        And again, it IS transmissible, so don’t be surprised when other nations react to this perceived recklessness and demand additional quarantine requirements from UK visitors. Our governments’ risk-aversions are generally higher in the EU so, I suspect, at least for the immediate future, we will continue to set levels based on infection numbers that affect the amount of restrictions.

        1. Today’s level in Germany went above 35 (7-day incidence/100,000) population so the national containment measures will kick in: 3G, ie. in affected districts, you will not be allowed to attend indoor events, including gyms and restaurant indoor seating unless you can “prove” COVID-free, through Vaccination, Recovery, or Test (Geimpft, Genesen, Getestet = 3G).

          1. I am a huge fan of Merkel and it will be incredibly sad when she call it quits, not just for Germany but for the world.

        2. Well said Mark. Germany has done an amazing job with managing the country during the pandemic, especially when looking at the the larger population of Germany compared to the UK.

          1. Thanks Kris,
            It has not been exemplary, especially because of the different approaches of the federal states, which has caused confusion at times; however, I can say, hand on heart, at least they have tried to balance openness with responsible containment measures. Chancellor Angela Merkel has been a rock and it is difficult to imagine anyone trying out her shoe size, particularly Laughing-Boy Laschet!

        3. The problem with covid is not that it is highly transmissible. The problem is that it brings a higher than normal death rate. The seasonal cold is highly transmissible but isn’t a problem because it doesn’t carry the same death rate. The problem is the deaths.

          Driving is a good analogy because it kills innocent people who would otherwise be alive if the speed limits were kept at 50 km/h. Forget about the autobahn. Just make 50 km the limit for every single country in the world. It seems you aren’t ok with that. Probably because there’s something about driving faster you feel is a benefit. Well, there’s something about getting rid of these restrictions that I feel is a benefit. Especially for Europe and the US where deaths are relatively low compared to the beginning of the pandemic.

          Why not let everyone live their lives the way they want to? You separate alcoholism and depression because they are not transmissible. That implies that they are an internal problem with that individual person. I would submit that people suffering from depression and alcoholism would benefit from being able to live a normal life. I know of at least two people who were in their 80’s and died with covid who were not allowed to see any family when they were dying, and I don’t know that many people. Again, I think you too easily write off the negative repercussions of restrictions, especially when you admit that it’s possible you might be doing it all just to make some people feel better.

          I am fine with countries that are under vaccinated continuing to block travel and have restrictions. It’s just not the case for the US, UK and Europe.

          It is interesting how at the beginning of the pandemic the problem was the deaths. We needed to “flatten the curve” to protect hospitals. Now because deaths are low and cases are high it is all about the cases. When cases are low again will we justify restrictions because of deaths again? How many deaths are acceptable to you? Will you wear a mask even if one person a day is dying from covid?

        4. The vast majority of gun deaths in the US occur with illegally acquired guns in the inner cities. Of the rest, mental health plays a very large part. I wonder if the negative mental health repercussions of lockdown might have an effect on this. Hmmm

          Again, I think you too easily write off the negative aspects of this for everyday people. Interesting how in many ways COVID has been a huge benefit to the wealthy. They can invest in crashed stock markets. Apparently they can have large maskless parties. They can travel at will and get to enjoy places like Rome without the unwashed masses clogging up the famous sights. Again I know of two people in their 80’s with dementia, got covid and died confused and alone. That’s traumatic for the person and their family. Serious trauma.

          A very very small number of people dying with covid are young and fit. I mean less than the numbers that would die with the regular flu.

        5. I would submit that passing a law that says you can drive as fast as you want on stretches of autobahn is much closer to the definition of Russian Roulette.

          1. The last stat I could find for the Autobahn was 409 deaths in 2017, so for a fair comparison the 2017 deaths by gun in the US was 39,773.

            I submit passing a law that says the ownership of 393 million guns, in a country with a population of 333,177,837, (the US), is the definition of Russian Roulette, with a touch of insanity.

          2. Again, the legal owners of those guns (which is also the majority of the 393 million guns) are a tiny fraction of the deaths. I would submit that if you lowered the autobahn speed limit to 50km/h almost all of those 409 deaths wouldn’t have happened. If you lowered every highway/freeway to 30 mph around the world you’d save millions of lives over a relatively short period of time. Also, you’d have the added benefit of reducing greenhouse gases because driving faster burns more gas. Win win win.

            Where I am going with everything I’ve posted is to show a different way of thinking about the risks we take as a society, such as driving. I’m clearly more comfortable with risks. That’s why the gun issue doesn’t bother me. The problem is poverty, drug wars, inner city violence, mental health, fatherlessness. Address those issues and gun violence would drop, even with 393 million guns.

            Not allowing relatives to visit a dying person is a not a sensible containment limitation.

            If a strain emerges that is not controlled by vaccines the chances are that it will emerge in a country that is heavily populated and behind on vaccines. Such as the “delta” variant which emerged in India. It won’t be coming out of Europe or the US.

            You’re right though, nuff said. I understand your position more clearly. I hope you understand mine as well.

          3. Thanks again Brad,
            I am sorry but I don’t see where you are going with this. I see in your arguments some sweeping generalisations about gun crime, wealthy people’s habits, about who is dying of COVID compared with the ‘flu, that “flattening the curve” was all about deaths … ? Additionally, you make suggestions based on what you believe is my thinking. Actually, as I live on a busy road with a kindergarten on the other side, I would love to see more 30km/h limits, never mind 50km/h, as is happening in France, see them enforced (which is not the case on my road) and restrictions on autobahn speed, not only for needless road tragedies but also for climate protection reasons. However, that is not the point, what is the point is the assumptions being made about my thinking and then the spin-off arguments.
            I do not have personal experience of people in hospital dying alone because of COVID and I am sorry that you do. However, isn’t that the point of “sensible” containment limitations, to try to prevent these kind of occurrences and not to gamble that we won’t produce a dominant strain that returns us to those bad times?
            Anyway, ’nuff said. Thank you for the stimulating discussion and good luck to you!

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