The Italian government has introduced mandatory mask-wearing across the country, as the number of daily new cases of Covid-19 doubled in just three days to nearly 4,500 – the highest in a single day since mid-April.
Although Italy's daily infection rate is much lower than other European nations like France, Spain and Britain, the government is concerned and has imposed stricter measures in the hope that it will not have to carry out new lockdowns or closures that would further hurt an already badly affected economy.
After passing a decree extending the state of emergency until 31 January 2021, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte announced the introduction of a new measure requiring everyone in the country to wear a mask outdoors or risk stiff fines of up to 1,000 euros.
“We must be more rigorous because we want to avoid, in every possible way, new restrictive measures for business and social life”, he said.
Only for outdoor sports activities or at bars and restaurants while eating and drinking will people be allowed not to wear a mask, or if they can absolutely guarantee they are isolated from others, such as alone on a mountain or in the countryside. Children under the age of 6 and individuals with specific health conditions are also exempt from wearing a face covering.
Conte went further telling the nation that the government could not ask its citizens to wear masks in their own homes but said it strongly urged members of the same household to social distance, as most new infections are taking place within families.
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Italy is extremely sensitive about ensuring that new infections don’t spiral out of control, particularly as it was the first and worst affected country in Europe at the start of the pandemic earlier this year.
More than 36,000 people have died of Covid-19 in Italy.
The country underwent a very strict two-month lockdown that allowed the government to get the contagion under control by the summer.
Analysts say one of the reasons Italy has managed the virus better than other countries is because it was so shocked and affected from the early outbreak and its citizens complied more with restrictive measures set by the government following the advice of medical experts.
Italy has also announced that four more countries have been added to the list of those from where arriving passengers will require testing for Covid-19.
These include Britain, Belgium, Holland and the Czech Republic. The same testing requirement is already in place for anyone who arrives in Italy from Spain, Croatia, Malta and parts of France including Paris.
Arriving passengers are required to take a test within 72 hours before arrival, or upon arrival, and if positive they will need to quarantine.
Rapid testing facilities have been set up in Italy as Rome, Milan and Venice airports, at the ports of Civitavecchia and Livorno and at Florence’s main railway station.