While several countries have recently been debating the issue of whether or not face masks should remain mandatory outdoors, it hasn’t been a major topic of discussion so far in Italy.
But as coronavirus case numbers fall and the temperature rises, calls are now growing for the country’s government to relax its current requirement for masks to be worn at all times in public, including outdoors.
Some Italian health experts say masks should not be a requirement outdoors this summer – perhaps from mid-July or August, depending on the progress of Italy’s vaccination campaign.
However, many officials continue to stress the importance of following such basic precautions.
Wearing a face mask in busy public areas has been mandatory since May 2020, and the rules were tightened up again in October 2020 to require mask-wearing at all times in public, indoors or outdoors. The rules are backed up with steep fines for non-compliance.
“These decisions were made in order not to expose us to the risk of having to close,” said Franco Locatelli, head of Italy’s Higher Health Institute and coordinator of the government’s scientific advisory panel.
“I think we can talk about [removing the mask requirement] in the second half of July, only outdoors, or even indoors for people who are vaccinated,” Locatelli told Italian newspaper La Stampa on Monday.
Italian health undersecretary Andrea Costa meanwhile said the restriction may be removed in August, depending on the progress of the vaccination campaign.
“Continuing at the current pace [of vaccinations], in August we will have over 70 million doses inoculated and over 20 million people in Italy will be fully vaccinated,” he told Italy’s Rai 3 TV channel on Friday.
“If we continue to rightly argue that the vaccine is the only way out of this pandemic, we must also give people perspective and a glimpse of the time when, outdoors, we can begin to think about removing masks.”
“I believe that in August, with the doses administered, this evaluation could be made,” he said.
All of Italy’s regions and autonomous provinces are in the lower-risk ‘yellow’ zone from Monday, as the latest health data on Friday confirmed further improvements to the health situation nationwide.
From early June, almost all restrictions will be dropped in the six Italian regions which will be low-risk ‘white’ zones.
Italy last week announced a revised roadmap for easing its remaining coronavirus restrictions between May and July.
The new plan sets dates for removing almost all rules except for those mandating masks outdoors, and keeping nightclubs and dance venues closed.