Will Italy end its Covid mask mandate on May 1st?

Italy is set to end the mask requirement for indoor public places by May 1st, but health ministry sources now say the rule could remain for “some places such as on public transport” beyond that date.

Will Italy end its Covid mask mandate on May 1st?
A passenger wears a face mask on a public bus in Rome. Italy’s government is set to decide by the end of April on whether masks will remain mandatory on public transport. Photo by Alberto PIZZOLI / AFP

Italy has eased many of its pandemic-related measures in recent weeks, and masks are no longer a requirement in most outdoor public areas.

READ ALSO: When do you still have to wear a mask outdoors in Italy?

The government is now expected to lift almost all remaining rules by mid-June, with a decree issued in March stating that the current mask mandate for indoor public areas is set to end on April 30th.

But Health Minister Roberto Speranza said last week that the decision was not final, and that the changes would be confirmed “in the last ten days of April”, based on the current health situation in the country.

With the government now considering whether to drop the mask mandate, a junior minister suggested on Wednesday that the rules may stay in place longer than expected – at least in some situations.

“I’m convinced that it would be right to go from an obligation to wear masks in enclosed spaces to a recommendation, keeping them in some places such as on public transport,” Deputy Health Minister Andrea Costa said in an interview with Rai News 24.

“The decree in force at the moment removes the obligation to wear masks for everyone [from May 1st],” he said.

“Now it’s a question of evaluating whether to keep them in some special situations, where there is a higher concentration of people.”

At the moment, Italy still requires masks to be worn in all indoor public places – including in shops and on public transport – and in crowded outdoor areas.

The legal obligation to wear a mask in all outdoor public places ended on February 11th.

Speranza last week stressed however that masks are still “essential” and a “fundamental safeguard” against the spread of the virus.

“We strongly recommend them on all occasions, even outdoors, where there is the possibility of gatherings,” he said.

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‘Not offensive’: Italian minister defends Covid testing rule for China arrivals

Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani defended the policy of testing all arrivals from China for Covid-19 after Beijing said the policy "lacks scientific basis".

'Not offensive': Italian minister defends Covid testing rule for China arrivals

“It seems perfectly normal to me,” Tajani told Italian state broadcaster Rai on Tuesday. “Having a test is a way to protect people’s health. There is nothing offensive about it.”

“Lots of Chinese and Italians coming from China do it (anyway),” he claimed.

READ ALSO: Is the EU likely to reinstate Covid travel restrictions?

Italy was the first European country to make testing on arrival a requirement for passengers arriving on flights from China last week, after a surge in the infection rate there.

Italian Health Minister Orazio Schillaci said on Wednesday that the screening requirement was “essential to ensure the surveillance and identification of any variants of the virus in order to protect the Italian population”.

READ ALSO: Italy pushes for EU-wide China Covid measures as tests show no new variants

France and Spain have since introduced similar rules (as well as non-EU countries including the UK and USA) and there is now a meeting scheduled for Wednesday of the EU Integrated Policy Response Capability to discuss coordinating measures.

Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni said the screening policy would be “ineffective” if not done on a European level, as only people arriving on direct flights from China were being tested in Italy, not those with stopovers.

But the Chinese government on Tuesday hit out at countries introducing a policy of mandatory testing for people arriving from China.

“Some countries have taken entry restrictions targeting only Chinese travellers,” foreign ministry spokesperson Mao Ning was quoted as saying at a briefing by AFP.

“This lacks scientific basis and some practices are unacceptable”.

She said Beijing may “take countermeasures based on the principle of reciprocity”.