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COVID-19 RULES

UPDATE: What are Italy’s new Covid quarantine rules?

Italy has updated its rules on quarantine for close contacts of people with Covid-19, effective from Friday, December 31st. Here's a look at what the new rules say and who they apply to.

UPDATE: What are Italy’s new Covid quarantine rules?
The quarantine rules in Italy have changed. Photo: STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN / AFP

The Italian government on Wednesday announced a revision of the coronavirus quarantine rules under a new decree law, amid surging case numbers driven by the highly contagious Omicron variant.

Health experts had urged the government to rethink its quarantine policies amid concern that the high number of infections could paralyse the country by forcing millions to stay at home.

With more than 100,000 people now testing positive daily in Italy, experts warned this could mean half a million more people required to quarantine every day unless the rules were eased.

Several aspects of the new rules were unclear from the initial announcement, but full details were made available on Friday when the government published its latest decree containing the new measures – which were effective immediately.

Here are the new measures in the event of close contact with a Covid-positive person according to the decree text and a circular from the Health Ministry.

What has changed?

The rule change concerns only those who are vaccinated. Unvaccinated people will continue to be required to undergo a ten-day quarantine period, with a negative test result at the end. That includes those who have only received one dose of the two required or those who have completed a vaccination cycle within the previous 14 days.

Quarantine will no longer be required for close contacts if they have had a booster dose, or were fully vaccinated or recovered within the last four months (120 days).

They will instead be required to wear a more protective FFP2 mask at all times in public for 10 days and, if they have symptoms, take a test within five days of contact with the positive person.

During this period a rapid antigen or molecular test should be done at the first appearance of symptoms. If symptomatic, the swab should be repeated on the fifth day following the date of last close contact. The self-monitoring period ends on the fifth day, and no swab is required if a patient remains asymptomatic.

If you were fully vaccinated more than four months ago, the quarantine requirement is reduced to a five-day period followed by a negative test result.

The decree does not mention any changes to the rules on quarantining in Italy after travel from another country.

At the moment, arrivals from most countries do not need to quarantine as long as they can provide proof of vaccination and testing.

Photo by JUAN MABROMATA / AFP

What is quarantine?

Italy defines quarantine as “carried out when a healthy person has been exposed to a Covid-19 case, with the aim of monitoring symptoms and providing for the early identification of cases”.

This is as opposed to isolation, which is used “to separate people suffering from Covid-19 from healthy ones in order to prevent the spread of infection”.

What is a ‘close contact’?

According to the health ministry, a ‘close contact’ of a person who has tested positive for Covid-19 is defined as:

 – “A person who lives in the same house as a Covid positive person;

– a person who has had direct physical contact with a positive person (eg. a handshake);

– a person who has had direct contact (face to face) with a positive person, at a distance of less than two meters and for at least 15 minutes;

– a person who has been in a closed environment (for example a classroom, meeting room, or hospital waiting room) with a positive person without wearing a suitable mask;

– a health worker or other person who provides direct assistance to a positive person;

– a person who has travelled seated in a section of a train or plane where the positive person was sitting”.

What should you do if you are a ‘close contact’?

The health ministry’s current guidance states that anyone who has been in close contact with a positive person should not go to the emergency room or doctor’s office, but should call their family doctor or their region’s coronavirus helpline. Current guidance tells people to stay at home.

What should you do if you test positive?

The health ministry states that anyone who gets a positive test result should not go to the emergency room or doctor’s office, but should call their family doctor or their region’s coronavirus helpline.

For asymptomatic people who have received the booster or have completed the vaccination cycle less than 120 days ago, the isolation period can be reduced from 10 to 7 days, according to the latest directive.

That is provided the person has always been asymptomatic, or has been asymptomatic for at least 3 days. It’s also on the proviso that, at the end of this period, the patient carries out a molecular or antigenic test with a negative result.

Symptomatic people who test positive can re-enter the community after a period of isolation of at least 10 days from the onset of symptoms, accompanied by a negative molecular or antigenic test after at least 3 days without symptoms (not counting changes in smell and taste).

If the test is still positive, you can leave isolation after 21 days, provided that there have been no symptoms for the last 7 days.

What are the rules for children?

The new quarantine rules will apply to everyone over the age of five.

According to Fabio Ciciliano, a member of the Scientific Technical Committee, the new guidelines for quarantine provided by the latest decree, relate to “positive close contacts and will affect all vaccinated children regardless of age”.

Are there different rules for doctors and nurses?

Yes. Healthcare workers must perform swabs on a daily basis until the fifth day of the last contact with an infected person.

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

Member comments

  1. We have been trying to get back to Italy for two years, have postponed four trips! what are the regulations for persons from the US if their vaccination is over four months, are healthy and not boosted?? Hopefully this will change by the spring, as well!
    Are unvaxed still allowed in with negative tests? Our children and grandchildren have postponed their trip as well. Thank you for all your help! I love reading The Local!

  2. Okay…maybe it’s the phrasing:
    After contact with a positive person t avoid quarantine, is it:
    1. If one has had the Booster OR is within a 120 days out from the second shot

    OR

    2. Does the 120 days apply to BOTH the Booster AND the Second Shot?

    It’s impossible (unless one lives in Israel) to get a Second Booster Shot in the US, so this answer applies to me, having been boosted in late September and planning to go to Florence/Assisi in February. I cannot find a clarification anywhere so if “theLocal” can find this info, I would be very appreciative.

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COVID-19 RULES

Will Italy drop its Covid isolation rule as the infection rate falls?

The health ministry is reviewing its quarantine requirements as the country's Covid-19 health situation improved again this week, according to Italian media reports.

Will Italy drop its Covid isolation rule as the infection rate falls?

Italy has taken a more cautious approach to Covid in recent months than many of its European neighbours, keeping strict isolation rules in place for anyone who tests positive for the virus.

But this could be set to change in the coming days, according to media reports, as one of Italy’s deputy health ministers said the government is about to cut the isolation period for asymptomatic cases.

“Certainly in the next few days there will be a reduction in isolation for those who are positive but have no symptoms,” Deputy Health Minister Andrea Costa said in a TV interview on the political talk show Agorà on Tuesday.

“We have to manage to live with the virus,” he said.

Italy’s La Stampa newspaper reported that the compulsory isolation period could be reduced to 48 hours for those who test positive but remain asymptomatic – provided they subsequently test negative after the day two mark.

Under Italy’s current rules, vaccinated people who test positive must stay in isolation for at least seven days, and unvaccinated people for ten days – regardless of whether or not they have any symptoms.

READ ALSO: How tourists and visitors can get a coronavirus test in Italy

At the end of the isolation period, the patient has to take another test to exit quarantine. Those who test negative are free to leave; those who remain positive must stay in isolation until they get a negative test result, up to a maximum of 21 days in total (at which point it doesn’t matter what the test result says).

Health ministry sources indicated the new rules would cut the maximum quarantine period to 15 or even 10 days for people who continue to test positive after the initial isolation period is up, La Stampa said.

The government is believed to be reviewing the rules as the latest official data showed Covid infection and hospitalisation rates were slowing again this week, as the current wave of contagions appeared to have peaked in mid-July.

However, the national Rt number (which shows the rate of transmission) remained above the epidemic threshold, and the number of fatalities continued to rise.

The proposed changes still aren’t lenient enough for some parties. Regional authorities have been pushing for an end to quarantine altogether, even for people who are actively positive – an idea Costa appears sympathetic to.

“The next step I think is to consider the idea of even eliminating the quarantine, perhaps by wearing a mask and therefore being able to go to work,” he told reporters.

“We must review the criteria for isolation, to avoid blocking the country again”.

At least one health expert, however, was unenthusiastic about the proposal.

Dr Nino Cartabellotta, head of Italy’s evidence-based medicine group Gimbe, tweeted on Tuesday: “There are currently no epidemiological or public health reasons to abolish the isolation of Covid-19 positives”

Massimo Andreoni, professor of Infectious Diseases at the Faculty of Medicine and Surgery of the Tor Vergata University of Rome, was more ambivalent about the prospect.

The isolation requirement for asymptomatic cases should be “revised somewhat in the light of the epidemiological data”, he told reporters, but urged “a minimum of precaution, because the less the virus circulates and the fewer severe cases there are, the fewer new variants arise”.

When the question was last raised at the end of June, Health Minister Roberto Speranza was firmly against the idea of lifting quarantine requirements for people who were Covid positive.

“At the moment such a thing is not in question,” he told newspaper La Repubblica at the time. “Anyone who is infected must stay at home.”

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