The Italian government has reacted to the sharp increase in covid infections in recent days with new restrictions, to save activity during the Christmas holidays. Among other measures, he decreed the use of masks outdoors throughout the country and a series of limitations on leisure activities, which can only be accessed by vaccinated people or those who have overcome the infection. Nightclubs and dance halls will also be closed until January 31. Health Minister Roberto Speranza urged the population to get vaccinated “as soon as possible”, given the strong spread of the virus and the high risk of contagion from the new omicron variant.
The transalpine country recorded Thursday the highest number of infections since the start of the pandemic, with 44,595 new contaminations. So far, the highest spike in confirmed cases occurred on November 13, 2020, when 40,902 were detected, although far fewer diagnostic tests were performed at that time (254,000 compared to more of 901,000 made since Wednesday). The difference in deaths between the two dates is also notable: 168 recorded this Thursday, while that of November 13 amounted to 550.
After consulting the committee of experts advising him, the executive of Mario Draghi has decided to decree the use of the mask outdoors throughout the country until January 31. Until now, they were only compulsory outdoors in regions that were in the yellow or orange zone – currently most are in the white zone, with the exception of Calabria, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Liguria, Marche and Veneto, which are in the yellow zone. ― or in the center and the squares of the agglomerations of certain cities such as Rome or Turin.
Nightclubs, dance halls and similar places will remain closed until January 31 and parties, concerts or any type of act involving crowds in outdoor areas will also not be able to take place. Several cities such as Rome, Florence, Milan or Turin had already canceled the public celebrations planned for New Year’s Eve. The government had considered other restrictions for the nightlife, such as access only to those vaccinated with the third dose, but ultimately opted to close it.
Only those who have been vaccinated or who have transmitted the infection will be able to consume inside bars and restaurants and enter museums, cinemas and theatres, although in the latter it is not possible to consume food or drinks. For cinemas, theaters and places where live shows or sporting events take place, both indoors and outdoors, wearing an FFP2 protective mask will be compulsory. The same goes for the means of transport, from trains to planes, including boats, trams, metros and all public transport.
In addition, from February the validity of the covid passport will be reduced from nine to six months, which certifies that the bearer is vaccinated, has passed the infection or has had a negative detection test in the last 48 hours. This health pass is practically essential for daily life in Italy, since it is also compulsory to go to work. The minimum time to apply the third dose is reduced from five to four months, on the express recommendation of the scientists who advise the Government.
Mario Draghi’s executive is also considering extending compulsory vaccination. So far, it’s only for healthcare workers, teachers, military, and law enforcement. “It is a measure that has never been ruled out,” confirmed the Prime Minister.
A study by the Higher Institute of Health confirmed the rapid spread of the omicron variant of the coronavirus and estimated that the new mutation is responsible for at least 28% of new positives recorded in the country, while there are just two weeks, it only appeared in 0.19% of cases.
On the other hand, given the current high demand, it is increasingly difficult to manage the performance of coronavirus detection tests. Healthcare companies are unable to do all the molecular testing they would like, pharmacies are unable to meet all antigen testing requests, and self-diagnostic tests are out of stock in many places. .
The demand for these tests was already high, since the unvaccinated – at least seven million people – needed them to get to work or for a large number of activities. But with rising infections, the rapid spread of the omicron variant, and the proximity of Christmas holidays and family reunions, requests have skyrocketed. Last Tuesday alone, the Civil Protection recorded 640,000 antigen tests, while a month ago, on November 23, 100,000 fewer were carried out.
The growing demand for tests worries health authorities and family doctors, who are beginning to have difficulty diagnosing the virus. In addition, there is less and less contact tracing of positive people and the time needed to identify suspected cases, even when they are symptomatic, has lengthened.