Easing Italy’s lockdown ‘is a risk we’re taking’: health minister

The Italian government's decision to allow travel between Italy's regions from June 3rd is not without risk as the coronavirus pandemic is still ongoing, Health Minister Roberto Speranza said on Monday.

Easing Italy's lockdown 'is a risk we're taking': health minister
Italy's Health Minister Roberto Speranza. File photo: AFP

“There is a risk and it would be wrong not to admit it,” Speranza told Rai, Italy's national broadcaster.

“It's clear that it is a risk we are taking, because zero risk does not exist at the moment and it will only exist when there is a vaccine.”

“Until then, it is a question of taking calculated risks and of trying to manage a different phase.”

Ahead of the further easing of restrictions on Wednesday,  some of Italy's top health experts have been questioning the accuracy of contagion data being released by regional governments during the reopening phase.

One independent report also warned that three northern regions were “not ready” to safely reopen.
As travel in Europe restarts, some countries, including Switzerland and Greece, are set to ban arrivals from Italy – or from certain Italian regions – amid ongoing concerns about the situation in the country.
However, the Italian government decided on Friday to press ahead with allowing interregional travel.

Speranza said it was “undeniable” that there were “differences in the situation” across the national territory, but “at the moment that the figures tell us that, while it is true that there are quantitative differences, the trend of all the regions is going in the right direction, is going down”.

He added that other countries are “not justified” in barring italians from entering “because the current situation in Italy is of a superior level than the average of other EU countries.”

“We had an extremely difficult emergency phase, and we were the first ones to take very tough decisions.”

Speranza has repeatedly warned that people must not let their guard down yet, and that “social distancing and precautionary measures will be crucial.”

“Woe betide us if we think we've won and everything is over,” he said.

Speranza last week warned that italy “must be ready” for a possible second wave of contagion.


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Covid face mask rule on flights in Europe set to be eased

The mandatory EU-wide mask requirement for air travel is set to be dropped from Monday, May 16th, but airlines may still require passengers to wear masks on some or all flights

Covid face mask rule on flights in Europe set to be eased

Europe-wide facemask rules on flights are set to be ditched as early as next week in light of new recommendations from health and air safety experts.

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) dropped recommendations for mandatory mask-wearing in airports and during flights in updated Covid-19 safety measures for travel issued on Wednesday, May 11th.

The new rules are expected to be rolled out from Monday, May 16th, but airlines may still continue to require the wearing of masks on some or all of flights. And the updated health safety measures still say that wearing a face mask remains one of the best ways to protect against the transmission of the virus.

The joint EASA/ECDC statement reminded travellers that masks may still be required on flights to destinations in certain countries that still require the wearing of masks on public transport and in transport hubs.

It also recommends that vulnerable passengers should continue to wear a face mask regardless of the rules, ideally an FFP2/N95/KN95 type mask which offers a higher level of protection than a standard surgical mask.

“From next week, face masks will no longer need to be mandatory in air travel in all cases, broadly aligning with the changing requirements of national authorities across Europe for public transport,” EASA executive director Patrick Ky said in the statement. 

“For passengers and air crews, this is a big step forward in the normalisation of air travel. Passengers should however behave responsibly and respect the choices of others around them. And a passenger who is coughing and sneezing should strongly consider wearing a face mask, for the reassurance of those seated nearby.”  

ECDC director Andrea Ammon added: “The development and continuous updates to the Aviation Health Safety Protocol in light of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic have given travellers and aviation personnel better knowledge of the risks of transmission of SARS-CoV-2 and its variants. 

“While risks do remain, we have seen that non-pharmaceutical interventions and vaccines have allowed our lives to begin to return to normal. 

“While mandatory mask-wearing in all situations is no longer recommended, it is important to be mindful that together with physical distancing and good hand hygiene it is one of the best methods of reducing transmission. 

“The rules and requirements of departure and destination states should be respected and applied consistently, and travel operators should take care to inform passengers of any required measures in a timely manner.”