Italy debates further Covid rule changes as daily cases near 100,000

Italy announced a new record high 98,020 Covid cases in the last 24 hours on Wednesday as the government considers further tightening health restrictions.

People wear face masks as they walk in central Rome.
Italy is expected to announce new restrictions just days after a new Covid-19 decree came into force. Photo: Vincenzo PINTO/AFP

The daily positive figure is a sharp increase on Tuesday’s 78,313 cases, the previous record high since the start of the pandemic.

A total of 1,029,429 tests were carried out on Wednesday, compared to 1,034,677 on Tuesday, the data from Italy’s health ministry showed. The test positivity rate rose from 7.5 percent to 9.5 percent.

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There were 136 more Covid deaths reported on Wednesday, compared to 202 on Tuesday.

Intensive care cases increased by 40 to a total of 1,185 nationwide, and hospital admissions were up 489 to 10,578.

The figures came as the Italian government called a meeting on Wednesday evening to discuss further changes to the country’s health measures – just days after a new Covid-19 decree came into force.

The Italian government’s panel of scientific experts, the comitato tecnico scientifico or technical scientific committee (CTS). is expected to decide on Wednesday whether a cut to the quarantine period should be allowed for triple-vaccinated people who come into contact with a positive case.

EXPLAINED: How to get a Covid-19 vaccine booster shot in Italy

The change is expected to come amid concerns about the economic impact of millions of people having to quarantine in Italy at the same time.

Senior health ministry figures earlier this week predicted Italy would soon exceed 100,000 daily cases – meaning up to half a million more people could be required to quarantine every day.

Hundreds of trains are being cancelled daily, operator Trenord said on Wednesday, due to a high number of staff absences.

The Italian government is set to make a decision on Wednesday night following the scientific panel’s recommendations.

It will also discuss whether to extend a ‘super’ or reinforced green pass obligation to all workplaces, according to reports from news agency Ansa on Wednesday citing government sources.

A move to expand the country’s current vaccine mandate would face strong opposition from within the coalition government, however, and looks unlikely to be approved at Wednesday’s meeting according to La Repubblica.

Italy’s reinforced green pass. introduced in early December, can only be obtained via vaccination or recovery, and not with a negative test result.

For further details about Italy’s current Covid-19 health measures please see the Italian Health Ministry’s website (available in English).

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Masks to remain mandatory on Italian flights after May 16th

It will still be obligatory for passengers to wear masks on flights to Italy until mid-June, despite the end of the EU-wide requirement on Monday, May 16th, the Italian government has confirmed.

Masks to remain mandatory on Italian flights after May 16th

The Italian government reiterated on Friday that its current mask-wearing rules remain in place until June 15th, reports newspaper Corriere della Sera.

This means the mask mandate will still apply to all air passengers travelling to or from Italy, despite the end of an EU-wide requirement to wear masks on flights and at airports across the bloc from Monday.

READ ALSO: Reader question: What type of mask will I need for travel to Italy?

National regulations take precedence, the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) confirmed when announcing the end of the EU rules.

“Wearing face masks at airports and inflight should be aligned with national measures on wearing masks in public transport and transport hubs,” they said in a joint statement published on May 11th.

READ ALSO: Why are so many Italians still wearing face masks in shops?

“If either the departure or destination States require the wearing of face masks on public transport, aircraft operators should require passengers and crew to comply with those requirements inflight, beyond 16 May 2022.

“Further, as of 16 May 2022, aircraft operators, during their pre-flight communications as well as during the flight, should continue to encourage their passengers and crew members to wear face masks during the flight as well as in the airport, even when wearing a face mask is not required”.

The Spanish government also said on Thursday that air passengers would have to continue wearing face masks on planes.

Italy’s current rules specify that higher-grade FFP2 masks should be worn on all forms of public transport, including buses, trams, regional and high-speed trains, ferries, and planes.

Though rules were eased in some settings from May 1st, masks also remain a requirement until June 15th at Italy’s cinemas and theatres, hospitals and care homes, indoor sporting event and concert venues, schools and universities.