Updated 9 April:
After more than 30 days in a full national lockdown, Italy appears to be seeing a downward trend in infections and an upward swing in recoveries. We are cautiously optimistic of the news but things continue to develop and change so quickly here in Rome that I have decided to keep all of the earlier information unedited, as a type of record of the strange times we live in.
The Reality of Life in Rome – as of 9 April
Life in Rome is not normal and we have no idea when it will be normal again. We cannot go meet our friends, we cannot resume our normal work. We are waiting and feel this is needed for the greater good. All of Italy has been put under lockdown and none of the stringent measures have been eased. All of Italy is closed, and some regions are even stricter than Rome. Only essential services remain operational. This means that:
- One person per family can leave to go shopping. Supermarkets and other food vendors like butchers can remain open. Lines tend to quite long because so few people are allowed inside at any one time. Rome’s mayor has limited supermarket hours (no 24-hour shopping allowed). All stores close by 7 pm Monday through Saturday, and at 1 pm on Sunday.
- Online purchasing options are overwhelmed so grocery delivery is difficult to access. Amazon has stopped delivery of nonessential items in Italy, but food and things like baby products are still being delivered with a slight delay. You can get prepared food from a number of businesses (but no take away – it has to come to you). Here is a list of food delivery in Rome.
- You can go to the pharmacy and medical appointments – alone. If you need to go to the hospital, you have to check on their policy. Some allow one person to come with you, others do not allow even a single visitor or support person.
- You can go outside to exercise or walk your dog, alone, but you must stay within 200 meters (600 feet) of your home and be as quick as possible. Children are not supposed to join you – though there has been a lot of debate about this.
- You must carry ID and an official government form with you that explains your purpose for being outside.
- You can buy cigarettes, gasoline, and newspapers. Businesses that sell these can stay open until 6 pm.
- All other businesses are closed. That means, for example, every single restaurant and coffee bar in all of Italy is closed.
- All museums and cultural attractions are also closed. Schools are closed, too, and will likely remain shut until at least September.
- These restrictions will be in place until at least April 13th. The Prime Minister is eager to start a gradual reopening after that.
- We are fine and we think this is all necessary.
Rome is located in the Italian region of Lazio, and all statistics are usually given at the regional or national level.
As of 8 April, Lazio has had a total of 4,266 cases with 2,910 of these in the province of Rome. These are all-time totals.
Statistics are updated via press conference at 6 pm every day. The current situation in Lazio is:
- Currently infected: 3,448
- Cured: 574
- Deaths: 244
For all of Italy, these totals are:
- Currently infected: 95,262
- Cured: 26,491
- Deaths: 17,669
The hospitals in the hardest-hit areas of the north are still completely full, though they are finally seeing a slight decrease in the number of new admissions to the ICUs. For that reason, we are all staying home. The only way to slow the spread is to have as little social interaction as possible. We cannot go meet our friends, we cannot resume our normal work. We are waiting and feel this is needed for the greater good.
Advice/Notice from the American Embassy in Rome:
Health Alert – U.S. Embassy Rome, Italy – April 9, 2020
Event: Passport processing centers in the United States have suspended operations due to COVID-19. They are no longer printing non-emergency passports or Consular Reports of Birth Abroad received from overseas U.S. embassies and consulates. U.S. embassies and consulates are still able to print emergency passports. If you have an immediate need to travel and have a confirmed flight to the United States, please contact U.S. Embassy Rome or your local consulate and request an emergency passport appointment.
U.S. citizens living overseas can vote absentee in their state’s upcoming election, no matter where they are. The Federal Voting Assistance Program (FVAP) continues to monitor the COVID-19 pandemic and the potential impact it may have on the election cycle. For additional information on potential changes to your state’s primary election and how to vote absentee, visit FVAP.gov/COVID-19.
Actions to Take:
- Call Italy’s112 emergency number or 1500 if you believe you have symptoms and are currently in Italy. English speaking operators are available.
- Consult the CDC website for the most up-to-date information on the disease.
- For information on what you can do to reduce your risk of contracting COVID-19, please see the CDC’s latest recommendations.
- Visit the COVID-19 crisis page on travel.state.gov for the latest information regarding foreign countries’ quarantine requirements and other global impacts.
- Have a plan to depart from Italy that does not rely on U.S. government assistance.
- Check with your airlines or cruise lines regarding any updated information about your travel plans and/or restrictions.
- Visit our Embassy webpage on COVID-19 for information on conditions in Italy.
- Visit the Department of Homeland Security’s website on the latest travel restrictions affecting travel to the U.S.
- Review the Italian National Institute of Health’s website (available only in Italian).
- Visit the Department of State’s webpage for U.S. travelers in Europe: https://travel.state.gov/
content/travel/en/ international-travel/before- you-go/travelers-with-special- considerations/schengen.html
Updated: 8 March 2020. With all of the recent news, I think it is normal that the questions I am seeing most often are about if Rome is safe during the coronavirus outbreak. Or even: should I cancel my trip to Italy because of coronavirus?
Ultimately, the choice to travel is a very personal one. This is true in any situation. At this time, listen to the experts and follow official guidance from Italian officials and your own government. Let that guide you in your choices, but know that all of Lombardy (including Milan), parts of Veneto (including the city of Venice), and areas in Emilia-Romagna (such as Modena), are not allowing ANY entrances or exits until 3 April. You cannot travel to these regions before then, and these restricted areas could change/be extended at any time.
To be very clear: I am not a public health expert. If you are interested in Rome and the coronavirus, and what is happening in Italy because of COVID-19, I am here to share insights as a resident of the city and offer official sources for information.
Because the situation with coronavirus is evolving quickly around the world, I will date the updates below so that you can be sure you are reading the most recent information about Rome and the novel coronavirus.
The Reality in Rome – as of 8 March 2020
Life in Rome continues on as pretty much normal with two exceptions: 1. the crowds are gone which makes it feels a bit surreal to see the sites with so few people. 2. School has just been canceled from 5-15 March. Schools were already closed in three northern regions, but this has now been applied countrywide.
All museums and theaters are closed as of 8 March in the entire country. This includes archeological sites and libraries, as well. The closures will likely last for one month.
What this means is that Rome still has:
- No food shortages
- No talk of quarantine
There are very few cases of the virus in our region and all have been tied to travel or contact with people who live in Northern Italy:
- There are 76 active cases in Lazio, the region Rome is located in, but they do not believe that there is a local hotspot at this time. Most of the cases can be traced back to northern Italy, which is still where a vast majority of the positives have been. Here is a global map with the latest statistics.
Pharmacies and grocery stores are sold out of hand sanitizer and face masks, but we don’t see anyone actually wearing face masks around our area of the city. It feels quieter than normal but people are out. With the new restrictions released 8 March on all gathering private and public, this will probably change. Pubs and nightclubs will have to close. Businesses such as hotels, restaurants in the center, and tour companies are suffering the most.
However, given how quickly the red zone was extended in Northern Italy – from covering 0.089% of the population to a full 25% of the population of Italy – it would be risky to continue with any trip that is set to occur before April 3, 2020.
Coronavirus in Italy: The Numbers
There are no restrictions on traveling in or around Rome but 8 March vastly changed the restrictions around the country. There are now 16 million people living in red zones. They are allowed out of their homes, but they are not allowed to leave their regions/cities. This means no exits and no entrances until at least April 3, 2020.
As of Saturday (March 7th): there have been 5,061 cases confirmed (including over 500 who have fully recovered) within a population of close 60 million. This was a big jump (1,145) from the day before so it does not seem to be slowing down at this time.
A majority of the positives are experiencing mild symptoms and are quarantined at home. There have been 233 deaths reported. Italy has the oldest population in Europe, and the deaths have been among patients with an average age of 80, many of whom had underlying conditions including cancer. Though the average age was high, these are still mothers, fathers, spouses, and grandparents, so I don’t want to undercut the tragedy of their deaths.
The World Health Organization has praised Italy’s response to the outbreak but hospitals are becoming strained.
Italy currently has the highest number of cases in Europe but it has also been the most aggressive in testing for the virus, which often presents with the same symptoms as the flu. This high testing may be one of the reasons that the cases have been uncovered. (Source) Italy has tested over 42,000 people.
Official Information Sources for Italy Coronavirus Updates
Social media is not the best place to turn for updates on the coronavirus in Italy. If you want to stay informed of the COVID-19 situation in Rome and Italy more broadly.
For official data, visit:
- Italian Ministry of Health Coronavirus Page (in Italian)
- Italian Civil Protection Updates (in English)
- Center for Disease Control Italy Page (Based in the United States). Late on 28 February, the CDC issued a Level 3 travel advisory for Italy, recommending avoiding non-essential travel. On 29 February, the travel advisory was raised to level 4 for the Veneto and Lombardy – Do not travel. There are no bans on flights but many airlines are canceling due to lack of demand.
- US Embassy in Italy Coronavirus Information
- Italian news sources include Corriere della Sera and La Repubblica
Precautions to Take
- Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds.
- Avoid touching your face with unwashed hands.
- Abide by official instructions to avoid quarantined towns in the regions of Lombardy and Veneto (far north of Rome).
- Enroll in your government’s travel alert program. For example, the CDC is not recommending canceling or postponing trips to Italy but since restrictions can change quickly, it is best to know how your government will inform you.
- Speak with your healthcare provider before making or changing plans if you are in a high-risk group.
- Call 1500 if you are experiencing symptoms in Italy. English-speaking operators will be available.
Additionally, as of 4 March the Italian officials have issued the following suggestions:
- No hugging or kissing to greet people
- People over the age of 75 should stay home
- Stay home if you experience any fever
Official recommendations from the US Embassy in Rome are:
- Read the Centers for Disease Control’s guidelines for the prevention of coronavirus and information on health conditions in Italy.
- Review the Embassy’s latest alerts for additional information regarding COVID-19 in Italy.
- Follow Italian health official guidance and avoid government-designated affected areas.
- Be aware of your surroundings when traveling to tourist locations and crowded public venues.
- Follow the instructions of local authorities.
- Monitor local media for breaking events and adjust your plans based on new information.
- Enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive Alerts and make it easier to locate you in an emergency.
- Follow the Department of State on Facebook and Twitter.
- Review the Crime and Safety Reports for Italy.
- Prepare a contingency plan for emergency situations. Review the Traveler’s Checklist.
Travel Bans on Those Traveling to Italy
It is important to be clear the US government as issued advisories but these are not restrictions or bans. They are in place to help travelers make informed decisions. However, the situation is fluid.
Actual bans on those traveling to/from Italy include:
- All passengers leaving Italy on US-bound flights will have their temperature taken. If you have a temperature of 99.5F or above, you will not be permitted to board.
- Kuwait. All flights to and from Italy have been canceled.
- Vietnam has directed passengers on all inbound flights from South Korea, Italy, and Iran, as well as those who have transited through these countries in the last 14 days, to be subject to intensive screening upon arrival. Travelers entering Vietnam may be subject to quarantine or return to point of departure.
- China announced on 3 March it would seek to quarantine arrivals from Italy.
- The Maldives is not accepting arrivals from Italy.
What to Expect Traveling to Rome
All passengers arriving at Italian airports will have their temperature taken. This screening has been in place for about a month now. You may see some visitors wearing masks but I have only seen one person wearing a mask in the last several days. There is nothing else out of the ordinary in Rome except that the crowds are smaller than usual.