Italy, where the pandemic first broke out in the West, is easing some restrictions including workplace vaccinations and mask requirements over the next few weeks
ROME — Italy, where the COVID-19 pandemic first broke out in the West in February 2020, is easing many restrictions over the next few weeks, including requirements for most workplace vaccinations and wearing masks.
Health Minister Roberto Speranza told reporters after a Cabinet meeting on Thursday that quarantine will no longer be necessary for those who come into contact with someone who has tested positive for the coronavirus. This is especially good news for children, he noted, as they will be able to continue attending school if a classmate tests positive.
But people who test positive will still have to self-isolate.
With the relaxation of Italian rules, workers over the age of 50 no longer risk being suspended from work if they are not vaccinated. Instead, until April, unvaccinated older workers will be able to access workplaces if they test negative.
Masks will still be required until April 30 for indoor places like restaurants, gyms, swimming pools, theaters and nightclubs, as well as workplaces.
Earlier this year, Italy lifted its mask-wearing requirement outdoors.
Soon, stadium capacity for sporting events and concerts will return to 100%.
But Prime Minister Mario Draghi has warned the country that if necessary, restrictions could return if there is another spike in COVID-19 infections.
“At today’s Cabinet meeting, we took fundamental steps to reopen” the country, Draghi said. “But of course we are observing with great attention how the epidemiological curve is changing, and we are ready to adapt” if necessary with stricter measures.
After a steady decline in recent weeks, the daily number of confirmed COVID-19 cases and the rate of swab test positivity have started to increase in recent days. This is similar to what is happening in other Western European countries lately. In Germany, where many pandemic restrictions expire this weekend, the country hit a new record for new confirmed cases on Thursday.
Experts say the current rise in the number of confirmed cases in Italy is still being investigated, but the highly transmissible omicron subvariant known as BA.2 is suspected.
In the measure of confidence that the worst of the virus epidemic is over, the Italian government has also decided not to renew the national state of emergency regarding the pandemic, after the expiration of the current emergency decree on March, 31st.
During the first months of the pandemic, Italy imposed one of the toughest nationwide lockdowns. Draghi thanked the Italians for their “patience” as well as their “selflessness” in getting vaccinated.
Nearly 90% of Italians aged 12 or over have completed the vaccination cycle and a third of children aged 5 to 12 have also been fully vaccinated. In addition, some 38 million of Italy’s approximately 59 million people received booster shots.
“We are still perceived abroad as a people who lack civic sense, well, that’s not true,” Draghi said. “We have one of the highest vaccination rates in Europe.”
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