Covid-19: Italy bans travel over Christmas holidays

Italy prohibits travel between regions from 21 December to 6 January.

Italy has banned non-essential travel between regions from 21 December until 6 January as part of a new decree aimed at averting a potential third wave of covid-19.

The much-anticipated rules governing Italy's Christmas season, in force from 4 December until 15 January, were set out by premier Giuseppe Conte during a televised address from Palazzo Chigi on the evening of 3 December.

Record high covid-19 death toll

Conte's announcement came shortly after Italy reported a record 993 coronavirus-related deaths over the last 24 hours, up from 684 the day before, in the highest daily death toll since 27 March when 919 fatalities were registered.

There were 23,225 new coronavirus infections recorded today, compared with 20,709 yesterday, according to data released this evening by the health ministry.

Travel

Under the new decree, approved by the government in conjunction with regional leaders, travel will only be allowed for reasons of work, health and "situations of necessity" (such as providing assistance to those who need it), and people will not be permitted to transfer to their holiday homes.

In addition it will not be possible to move outside one's town or city of residence on Christmas Day, St Stephen's Day and New Year's Day.

International travel

Those who travel abroad over Christmas must self-isolate on their return to Italy. 

Curfew

The current nationwide curfew will remain in place, with people not allowed out of their homes between 22.00 and 05.00, except for work or health reasons or other urgent situations.

Third wave

"There is still a long way to go before we get out of the pandemic and we must avert a third wave that could arrive as early as January and be no less violent than the first wave" - Conte said - "We have avoided a generalised lockdown but now, towards Christmas, we must not let our guard down to avoid a surge in infections."

Colour coded system

Italy's existing three-tier system, based on a colour code according to the intensity of the epidemic, divides the nation's 20 regions into red (high-risk), orange (medium risk) and yellow (low risk) zones. This system is to remain in effect, with the goal of the whole country becoming "yellow" by mid-December.

Midnight Mass

The curfew will affect the Italian tradition of attending midnight Mass on Christmas Eve, with churches set to bring forward religious ceremonies by several hours.

Home

The government has issued a "strong recommendation" not to receive people into your house that you do not live with. "Caution is essential to protect our loved ones" - said Conte - "especially the elderly."

New Year

On New Year's Eve-Day the curfew will be extended by two hours, in effect from 22.00 on 31 December until 07.00 on 1 January 2021.

Hotels

Hotels can remain open throughout Italy but guests wishing to eat New Year's Eve dinner in the hotel must be served in their rooms.

Christmas shopping

Shops are permitted to stay open until 21.00 during the festive season however shopping centres will remain closed at weekends and on holidays.

Restaurants and bars

Restaurants and bars in yellow zones will still be able to stay open until 18.00 and are allowed to serve lunch during the festive period, including on Christmas Day, St Stephen's Day, New Year's Day and 6 January (Epiphany-Befana), for a maximum of four people unless they are living together. Takeaways are allowed until 22.00, with no time limit on home delivery.

Museums, theatres, cinema

Cultural sites including museums, theatres, cinemas and archaeological sites are to remain closed over the festive period.

Skiing

Italy's ski slopes will remain closed for the Christmas season, reopening on 7 January.

Schools

The government has also decided that senior high-school students can return to lessons in the class room up to 75 per cent, from 7 January, after an extended period of distance-learning.

Photo: Stefano_Valeri / Shutterstock.com.