Four more Italian regions in Covid ‘orange’ risk zone from Monday

Four more Italian regions will be classed as medium-high risk Covid 'orange' zones from Monday as cases and hospitalisations continue to rise.

A woman rides a bike in downtown Turin, Piedmont: one of the Italian regions becoming an 'orange' zone on Monday.
A woman rides a bike in downtown Turin, Piedmont: one of the Italian regions becoming an 'orange' zone on Monday. Photo: MIGUEL MEDINA / AFP

Abruzzo, Friuli Venezia Giulia, Piedmont and Sicily are all set to lose their low-to-moderate ‘yellow’ zone risk status under Italy’s four-tiered system of Covid restrictions from Monday, January 24th, following an ordinance signed by Health Minister Roberto Speranza on Friday afternoon, according to Italian media reports.

Meanwhile Puglia and Sardinia, two of the five Italian regions that had until now had remained in the least-restricted ‘white’ zone, will be under ‘yellow’ zone restrictions from Monday.

Under the current system, ‘white’ zones are under the most relaxed rules, and ‘yellow’, ‘orange’ and ‘red’ zones are under increasingly strict measures.

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

Abruzzo, Friuli Venezia Giulia, Piedmont and Sicily will join Northern of Val d’Aosta in the ‘orange’ zone. Only three regions – Umbria, Basilicata and Molise – remain in the least restricted ‘white’ zone from Monday, with the remainder of the country in the ‘yellow’ zone.

Under rules put in place by Italy’s government last July, a region’s risk status should be based on whether it simultaneously exceeds three thresholds relating to Covid incident rates, ICU Covid patient occupancy rates and general hospital ward Covid patient occupancy rates – with increasingly higher thresholds in place for each risk category.

These figures are released daily by Agenas, Italy’s National Agency for Health Services, and provide a useful indication of where each region is likely to be headed.

As of Thursday (the most current dataset available), Abruzzo, Friuli Venezia Giulia, Piedmont and Sicily had all approached or exceeded the ‘orange’ zone parameters of 150 Covid cases per 100,000 inhabitants, 20 percent ICU and 30 percent general ward Covid patient occupancy, the figures show. 

Abruzzo now has 22 percent ICU and 32 percent general hospital ward Covid patient occupancy, while Friuli Venezia Giulia’s figures for the same parameters stand at 23 percent and 34 percent, Piedmont’s at 23 percent and 30 percent, and Sicily’s at 20 percent and 37 percent. All of Italy’s region’s currently exceed the case limit threshold.

Italy's tiered system of localised Covid restrictions was first introduced in November 2020, and was initially used to place tighter limitations on movement in areas where the risk of contagion and pressure on hospitals was deemed dangerously high.

Recently, however, the system’s usefulness has been 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.

It is now necessary to present a 'super green pass' health certificate, available only to those who are vaccinated against or recently recovered from Covid, to access most services and venues in Italy, including public transport, sports facilities and restaurants.

From the start of next month, a 'basic green pass', which can also be obtained via a negative Covid test result, will additionally be required to enter most shops and to access post offices, banks, and public offices (the basic green pass requirement has been in place specifically for hairdressers and beauty salons since January 20th).

READ ALSO: Italy confirms most shops require Covid green pass from February 1st

As these rules apply nationwide, the unvaccinated (or unrecovered from Covid) face strict constraints even in the 'white' zone, while those with a vaccine pass will experience little change to their daily lives even with a transition to 'orange' zone rules.

Only in the 'red' zone, which in effect imposes a full lockdown, does life substantially change for 'super green pass' holders - leading some commentators to describe the tiered colour system as obsolete in all but the most extreme circumstances.

Early this week, Speranza said he intended to open a discussion with regional authorities "to address issues" with the system, while Health Undersecretary Pierpaolo Sileri has reportedly said the rules “will be modified and relaxed very soon”.

READ ALSO: Italy to ‘reconsider’ tiered system of Covid risk zones

Speaking on Friday, President of the Lombardy Region Attilio Fontana suggested that a conference between regional heads and the government would be held next week instead, adding that the zone system “is a little out of date”.

“It was useful at a certain stage and now I think it needs to be modified,” he said. “The virus and its way of expanding are different, and the situation of citizens, who are largely vaccinated, is different. We must try to adapt to the new situation.”

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Reader question: What are Italy’s Covid quarantine rules for travellers?

Italy's quarantine rules have changed so many times over the past couple of years, it can be hard to keep track. Here's the latest information on when and how visitors need to self-isolate.

Reader question: What are Italy's Covid quarantine rules for travellers?

Question: “One of your recent articles says you can exit quarantine by testing negative for the coronavirus. But you can also exit quarantine by obtaining a certificate of recovery from Covid-19… true?”

Unfortunately, official proof of having recovered from Covid-19 won’t get you out of the requirement to self-isolate if you test positive for Covid while visiting Italy – though it can shorten your quarantine period.

The health ministry’s current rules state that anyone who tests positive while in Italy is required to immediately self-isolate for a minimum of seven days: that’s if the person in question is fully vaccinated and boosted, or has completed their primary vaccination cycle, or was certified as being recovered from Covid less than 120 days ago.

That period is extended to 10 days for those who aren’t fully vaccinated and boosted, or those who recovered from Covid or completed their primary vaccination cycle more than 120 days ago.

In either case, the infected person must have been symptomless for at least three days in order to exit quarantine (with the exception of symptoms relating to a lost sense of taste or smell, which can persist for some time after the infection is over).

READ ALSO: Travel in Italy and Covid rules this summer: what to expect

The patient must also test negative for the virus via either a molecular (PCR) or rapid antigen test on the final day of the quarantine in order to be allowed out.

Read more about getting tested while in Italy in a separate article here.

Quarantined people who keep testing positive for the virus can be kept in self-isolation for a maximum of 21 days, at which point they will be automatically released.

Italy does not currently require visitors from any country to test negative in order to enter its borders, as long as they are fully boosted or were recently vaccinated/ have recently recovered from Covid.

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

Some countries (including the US), however, do require people travelling from Italy to test negative before their departure – which means visitors at the tail end of their journey could be hit with the unpleasant surprise of finding out they need to quarantine for another week in Italy instead of heading home as planned.

It’s because of this rule that a number of The Local’s readers told us they wouldn’t be coming on holiday to Italy this summer, and intend to postpone for another year.

If you are planning on visiting Italy from a country that requires you to test negative for Covid prior to re-entry, it’s a good idea to consider what you would do and where you would go in the unlikely event you unexpectedly test positive.

Please note that The Local cannot advise on specific cases. For more information about how the rules may apply to you, see the Italian Health Ministry’s website or consult the Italian embassy in your country.

You can keep up with the latest updates via our homepage or Italian travel news section.