Italy to ‘reconsider’ tiered system of Covid risk zones

The Italian government is holding talks on Monday over the future of the four-tiered system of health measures in place since last November and may also change the way Covid cases are counted, local media reports.

People walk in central Milan wearing FFP2 face masks.
Italy's coloured zone system of Covid rules could soon be scrapped as the country relies increasingly on vaccination. Photo: Miguel Medina

Italian Health Minister Roberto Speranza confirmed on Monday that “in the next few hours we’ll open a discussion” with regional authorities “to address issues” with the tiered system, according to national broadcaster Rai.

The president of Italy’s Higher Health Institute (ISS), Franco Locatelli, said: “The coloured system for the regions was developed by the health ministry in different times,” adding that a review was “logical”.

While no details were given by officials as to the changes being proposed on Monday morning, Rai writes that government may “consign the coloured system to the attic”, ie: scrap it altogether.

MAP: Which Covid risk zone is each Italian region in from Monday?

Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera cites Health Undersecretary Pierpaolo Sileri as saying the rules “will be modified and relaxed very soon”, while news agency Ansa reports that the government is also likely to change the way Covid cases are counted, without giving further detail.

Introduced under former prime minister Giuseppe Conte in early November 2020, the zone system divides Italy’s 21 regions and autonomous provinces by colour: from white (lowest risk), to yellow, orange, and red (highest risk).

The system, which has been revised multiple times since it was first brought in, was initially used to place tighter restrictions on movement in areas where the risk of contagion and pressure on hospitals was deemed dangerously high.

But the system’s usefulness is increasingly being called into question amid increasing reliance on the use of vaccine passes in Italy and rule changes which mean restrictions in white and yellow zones are now the same, while rules only change in an orange zone for people who are unvaccinated.

With the government also expected to agree this week on new rules restricting access to more venues and services to the unvaccinated regardless of zone from February, the orange zone classification could also soon become obsolete.

Starting next month, either the ‘super’ green pass – which is effectively a vaccine pass – or the ‘basic’ version, which can also be accessed using a negative test result, will be a requirement everywhere in Italy except for supermarkets, grocery stores, hospitals and pharmacies, Rai reports.

The government is yet to decide whether it will require passes for entry to shops such as newsagents and tobacconists, with a decision expected by the middle of this week.

For the moment, the coloured tier system remains in place with most of the country designated a ‘yellow’ zone as of Monday.

On Friday, the health minister signed an ordinance increasing the risk level in two regions from Monday, January 17th.

Valle d’Aosta became Italy’s only ‘orange’ zone and Calabria turned ‘yellow’, as the health situation was deemed to be worsening according to the latest weekly health data report published by the health ministry and ISS.

Italy’s health ministry examines the latest figures each week and decides which restrictions should be applied to a region or autonomous province from the following Monday.

EXPLAINED: What are the rules in Italy’s Covid ‘orange’ zones?

“The epidemic is at a delicate stage and a persistent increase in the number of cases and hospitalisations has been observed for several weeks now,” the report stated.

Scientific experts predict that the current wave of contagions sweeping Italy is likely to hit its ‘peak’ in Italy by the end of this week – but have warned that daily case numbers may rise further before this happens.

For more information 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.