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HEALTH

Covid-19: Italy considers removing outdoor mask rule ‘from July or August’

As Italy's coronavirus case numbers fall and temperatures rise, calls are growing for the government to relax the requirement for masks to be worn outdoors.

Covid-19: Italy considers removing outdoor mask rule 'from July or August'
Photo: Alberto Pizzoli/AFP

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.

READ ALSO: Covid-19: All of Italy’s regions now ‘low risk’, health ministry says

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.

Photo: Vincenzo PINTO / AFP

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.

READ ALSO: What will Italy’s coronavirus rules be for summer 2021?

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.

READ ALSO: Reader question: What kind of coronavirus test do I need to take for travel to Italy?

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.

Member comments

  1. Outdoor mask rule is ludicrous. For a less than one percent chance of transmission, millions of people have to continue this unhealthy practice. Shameful.

    1. Well, the expression “When in Rome…” comes to mind. The beauty of being a guest in a country is that it is not your responsibility to change the way the country works (and in this case, why it decided to mandate masks – which seems to have worked pretty well..)

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TRAVEL NEWS

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.”

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