At the peak of Italy’s first wave in the spring of 2020, 4,000 people a day were being treated in ICU beds. After a strict lockdown and a careful reopening, new infections dropped to as low as 200 a day during the summer. However, as the new positives begin to rise again, Italy is preparing to require universal mask-wearing outside, as well as the continued requirement for indoor public places.
With around 2,500 new cases per day (and over 100,000 daily tests), Italy is faring better than much of Europe right now. Currently, there are about 45 cases per 100,000 citizens, and less than 400 people hospitalized in intensive care nationally. The good news is that reopening the schools seems to have had little impact on spreading the contagion but the virus remains in regular circulation. BUT there was another spike today (7 October) – 3,678 new positives.
Italy is looking to avert a second wave by requiring masks to be worn at all times. This is already the rule in Lazio – the region where Rome is located – but is poised to be extended across the country in the coming days.
This means that even people walking alone outside must be wearing a mask if there is a chance they will encounter others. When we step outside of our doors, we have them on. Italians already had one of the best rates of mask use in Europe and wearing them indoors in shops and other public areas has been required since our spring lockdown.
However, many people have fallen into a false sense of security when the number of infections and hospitalizations fell over the summer. Slowly, we relaxed social distancing outside and masks were always with us but not always on if we were outdoors.
The new mask rule applies to anyone over the age of 6 and is being regularly enforced in the center. Those caught without a mask face fines of €400 – €1000.
Italy now produces enough masks locally to meet demand. The price of disposable surgical masks is controlled by the government and so they cost just 50 cents each. Other masks are also widely available, with new stores specializing in accessory face coverings popping up around Campo de’ Fiori.
Not everyone wears their mask properly at all times (lots of noses sticking out), but there are no major clashes about the need to wear them. They are seen as the best way to keep moving forward with semi-normal life.
There is no news on when borders may open to US visitors. However, Italy recently relaxed its rules slightly to allow non-Europeans to enter if they are in a serious relationship with an Italian resident. This still requires a 14-day quarantine. While the borders remain open to the EU and some other countries, people entering Italy from several approved countries must take a coronavirus test upon arrival.