Covid-19: Italy prepares for a very different Christmas

With Italy divided into three covid-19 risk zones, not everyone will celebrate Christmas the same way.

The Italian government is at work to prepare new measures governing the Christmas period - a season normally full of get-togethers and travel - in the new era of covid-19.

Christmas in Italy will be "different but not cancelled," government sources told Italian news agency ANSA, with different rules set to apply in yellow, orange and red zones under the country's new three-tier system.

The new measures, expected by 3 December, will set out rules relating to issues such as Christmas shopping and travel, and even recommendations on how many people can sit down together for Christmas dinner.

However a relaxing of restrictions will depend on "more comforting data" relating to the covid-19 crisis, reports ANSA.

Some of the possibilities being studied by the government include the late opening of shops in the yellow (lower risk) and orange (medium risk) zones until 22.00 or 23.00, to allow people to do their Christmas shopping while controlling the flow of crowds.

In the high-risk red zones, the government is assessing the possibility of people being allowed to travel to loved ones living on their own so that nobody is "abandoned" for Christmas.

Whatever measures the government decides, Christmas in Italy this year will take place without the usual parties and much of the public festivities such as Christmas markets.

Furthermore, all decisions will be tied to the red, orange or yellow zones, meaning that not everyone in Italy will celebrate Christmas in the same way.

"It must be a fairly sober Christmas, because a free-for-all would lead us to a third wave," said virologist Fabrizio Pregliasco of the Università Statale di Milano.

Silvio Brusaferro, president of the Higher Health Institute (ISS), said on 17 November: "What will happen at Christmas will very much depend on how we behave."

On 17 November Italy registered 32,191 new covid-19 cases over the previous 24 hours (up from 27,354 new cases the day before), with 731 coronavirus-related deaths (up from 504 the day before), in the highest daily death toll since 3 April.

There were 208,458 new swabs taken, compared to 152,000 on Monday, so the "rise in new cases was largely due to the higher number of tests," said the director of the health ministry's prevention department, Gianni Rezza.

Cover image: Christmas 2019 in Florence. Photo credit: Dan74 / Shutterstock.com.