Italy Extends State of Emergency and Imposes Face Masks Outside

Thu, 10/08/2020 - 05:35
People wearing face masks in Milan

On Wednesday, the Italian government extended the country’s state of emergency until January 31, 2021 and issued a new emergency decree that imposes wearing face masks outside if you are near people you do not live with. 

The state of emergency, which in Italy was declared at the end of January as coronavirus began spreading, allows the Italian government to rule by decree without needing parliamentary approval, and “gives special powers to governors and other public bodies, making it possible, for example, to create 'red zones' sealing off areas where a coronavirus outbreak has occurred,” writes news agency ANSA. 

All previous measures aimed at containing the spread of the virus, such as wearing a mask inside all public spaces, social distancing of at least one meter with people you do not live with, frequent hand washing and the obligation to stay at home if you have a fever of 37.5° or more, remain in place. 

The main change in this latest decree, and the one that caused much polemica (controversy), is the obligation to wear a face mask outside. As specified in the new decree, you now must carry a face mask with you at all times and wear it indoors everywhere except in your own home and outdoors unless “a condition of prolonged isolation can be guaranteed.” In other words, if you’re walking around the city center, you must wear it; if you’re walking by yourself or with a family member in an isolated area, you don’t have to wear it, but you must be prepared to wear it if you meet other people with whom you cannot maintain a safe distance of at least two meters.

A face mask outside is not mandatory also when you are performing physical activities, for children who are less than six years old, and for people with conditions “incompatible with the use of a mask.”    

If you are caught not wearing a mask where it is mandatory to do so, you may be fined €400 up to €1,000. 

Students in schools do not have to wear face masks if they are sitting at their desk at one meter distance from other students. In all other circumstances, they have to wear a mask. 

In restaurants, you do not have to wear a mask when you are sitting down at the table. In bars and pubs you must wear even when you are sitting down except when you are eating or drinking. The same applies if you are in the outdoor areas of these places. Nightclubs remain closed. 

People caught violating quarantine orders (those who have tested positive for coronavirus and those waiting test results) face detention from 3 to 18 months and a fine from €500 to €5,000.

Those not enforcing the necessary measures within their premises risk a fine of €400-€1000 and closing down from 5 to 30 days. 

Italy has also introduced the obligation to take a swab for all travelers coming from the UK, Belgium, the Netherlands, the Czech Republic, in addition to Croatia, Greece, Malta, Spain, Paris and seven regions of France, the countries for which the swab was already required. 

Italy has registered 3.678 new cases on October 7. Of the 62.576 currently infected patients, 58.457 are quarantining at home with light or no symptoms; 3.782 are in the hospital with symptoms; 337 are in intensive care.