Italy's covid-19 restrictions "Phase 3" - June Update

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June 22, 2020
Written by: Lincoln Han

Since the last major change in quarantine restrictions on May 18th, many people are finally getting the much needed personal grooming restricted since the beginning of the national quarantine. Barbers and salons have been experiencing a steady demand. Restaurants too began opening up for dining service. Since May 26, when the gyms opened up again for individual indoor exercises by appointment only, gradually other restrictions have been lifted.

The epidemiological trend is clearly showing a steady decline since Phase 2. As of today, June 22, there are seven regions which recorded zero new infection for the day: Puglia, Friuli-Venezia-Giulia, Sicily, Umbria, Sardinia, Valle d¡¯Aosta, and Basilicata. Even populous regions like Campania and Piedmont recorded only single-digit new infections: seven cases each. However, a former covid-19 hotspot, the populous region of Lombardy (where Bergamo, Cremona, Milan are all based), is the only region with triple-digit increase, taking the top infection spot at 143 cases.

Covid-19 corona-virus chart Italy
New covid-19 infection chart from Feburary 24 to June 22 in Italy. (Source: Ministry of Health)

Cumulatively there are 20637 current positive cases, 183426 cured cases, 34567 deaths, totaling 238720 infections diagnosed since the beginning of the epidemic. The current new infection rate is returned to the level of the very beginning of the covid-19 epidemic (around the end of February), whereas the peak was in the second half of March.

This is a relief to the medical community and society at large, as hospitals are not spending most of their resources on urgent care of covid-19 corona virus patients. The newly constructed quarantine hospital in Milan, Ospedale Fiera Milano, is closing down for the lack of patients. It was built quickly to handle an influx of huge number of patients, which fortunately never became fulfilled.

According to leading infectious disease and epidemiology experts in Italy, much of the credit for lowering the infection curve has to do with the initial national quarantine effort, a gradual and cautious approach to restoring various businesses and services, and the mandatory physical distancing as well as mask usage in situations where adequate distancing cannot be observed. As a result of the satisfactory steady decrease in new infection rate, people in Italy have begun to enjoy many benefits phase 3 brings.

Alitalia plane sits on tarmac
An Alitalia plane waiting on the tarmac to depart

Traveling and tourism are one of the main backbones the Italy economy and many people also have been looking forward to the renewed freedom of movement in and out of the country.

From June 3, people are free to move within Italy from one region to another without justification or self-declaration. Italians and foreigners can travel from and to the following countries. Those who are traveling to Italy from these countries are not subject to mandatory 14-day quarantine in Italy only if they have not been to a country outside this list 14 days prior to their entry to Italy.

European Union members: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cypress, Croatia, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Czech Republic, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and Hungary.

Non-EU, Schengen agreement countries: Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, Switzerland, Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Andorra, Monaco, Vatican and Republic of San Marino

Until June 30, for travelers in Italy, going to all the other countries and territories, are still subject to restriction for absolute urgency: work, health, family reasons.

As a result, most European airlines began restarting flight service or adding routes, albeit in a limit capacity. Alitalia, Austrian Airlines, easyJet, Lufthansa, Ryanair, Swissair, among many others are flying in and out of Italy again.

Italian ice cream
Some ice cream shops are back, some are not

Many places are opening up for tourists cautiously, weighing a delicate balance between restoring economy needs and health precaution. Many re-opened businesses are still feeling the financial pain as most had to pay rent, whether full or partial, taxes, utilities bills, employee¡¯s benefits and wages during their closure. Many businesses decided to close down all over Italy, including some historical shops, cafes and restaurants. One ice-cream caf¨¦ near the city center where our office is located shuttered. Other cafes opened up again as most people long for their daily espresso and cappuccino, though they are not crowded as before due to the physical distancing rules and limit on the number of customers.

Because of the stigma of covid-19 corona virus' origin during the earlier days of the pandemic, the Chinese businesses in Italy have been hit even harder. One Chinese and Japanese restaurant¡¯s owner said to ExpatsInItaly:

"Since epidemic originated in China back in January, we were already suffering from a big drop in business revenue to the tune of 50% or more. Then in late February we had to close because the clients were drying up, and we were losing money keep the restaurant open and paying all the employees. Then the pandemic hit Italy in early March and all the restaurants had to close and remain closed until when we re-opened again. During this time we had to pay 4000 euros a month rent, with no revenue. We had to let go of our assistant chef and negotiated with our landlord. Finally our landlord relented and realized that if we go out of business, no one will take this place for a long time. So we have been paying a reduced rent for the time which we were closed. Now we are cautiously re-opening again, the revenue will not pick up as before for the simple fact we cannot accommodate as many customers at once."

This is an example to show that most Chinese-operated businesses are suffering double impact from the covid19 coronavirus pandemic, despite the Chinese residents in Italy having nearly no infection. Most Chinese residents in Italy began taking precaution much earlier than the official recommended timeframe because they have been closely following the development in China.

From June 12, sport events and competitions without public attendance can open whether it is indoor or outdoor, as long as they respect the necessary health protocols.

From June 15, gambling and game halls, spas, thermal springs, social and cultural centers began reopening; also well as childcare center for children up to three years old. Open air shows, theater, concert, cinema, and other spectacle activities are now permitted.

Caserta Royal Palace garden
No mask wil be required for outdoor

On June 22, one of the most significant changes taking effect is the removal of mask-wearing requirement outdoor. No longer is a person required to wear a face mask outside, except where there is a crowd assembly or where a meter of distance cannot be maintained. Mask, however, is still legally obligatory to be worn anywhere indoor.
While surprising, it is also expected that discos, pubs, dance halls to reopen only for the food and beverage service, dancing and close gathering of crowds is still indefinitely prohibited.

While expected, it is not entirely a certain thing that from Thursday, June 25th, contact sports and physical activities (football, judo, kung-fu, ballroom dancing, etc.) will be allowed.

Besides the national government, each region has authority to adapt and modify the restriction rules as needed based on their epidemiological trend. Many regions decided for example, to restrict the sale of alcohol to 10PM at restaurants, bars, supermarkets, to discourage drunk and disorderly people loitering in public after certain hours.

While the overall trend looks positive, there are also beginning to show new small clusters of infection, such as in Milan where 43 cases were diagnosed last Friday, June 19. While today, in Mondragone area of Naples, a beach community where seven new cases were found in a predominantly Bulgarian neighborhood. These seven cases contribute to the entire new infection count for the region of Campania in one day.

While there is optimism looking ahead, medical experts recommend a much more cautious approach as we move into this new phase. If the Spanish Flu pandemic is any guide, the second wave of the virus hits much worse than the first one. So it's not time to celebrate yet. The virus does not disappear because of the declaration of a decree, and people should continue to do their best practice to minimize contagion while getting back to normal life as they can. Given the sacrifice people in Italy have made until now, we can hope that it will be eradicated or kept under control through our united determination and behavior.

Turin old town city center
Cautious optimism ahead. (Turin, Italy)

Author Lincoln Han is a professional martial artists and entrepreneur, fluent in English, Italian and mandarin Chinese, you can reach him here.


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