Covid-19: Italy set to make masks outdoors mandatory

Italy prepares to tighten some restrictions to combat covid-19.

Italy is set to make the wearing of face masks outdoors compulsory nationwide and limit gatherings of people, as part of a new decree outlined in parliament by health minister Roberto Speranza this morning.

Speranza also confirmed the government's intention of extending the country's existing state of emergency, which comes to an end on 15 October, until 31 January 2021, exactly a year after it was first introduced.

Highlighting the fact that both the national and international covid-19 situation has changed in recent months, Speranza said: "Italy is holding up better in the second wave, but we must not be under any illusions."

Speranza said there has been a "significant jump" in Italy's numbers of coronavirus cases over the last two months, stating that there are 3,487 people currently in hospital with covid-19, with 323 in intensive care.

The minister said the current situation is "manageable" compared to the height of the country's covid-19 emergency when there were 4,000 people in intensive care, but acknowledged that the trend was clear to see.

The minister noted that there are currently 58,900 cases of the virus in Italy, compared with 12,600 two months ago, and warned that many of the new contagions are being caused by gatherings of friends and acquaintances.

Stressing the need for the "utmost attention in every corner of the country," Speranza called on Italians to recover the "spirit of national unity and the spirit of March."  

The new measures will come into effect once the cabinet decree is approved by parliament, by 7 October, reports Italian news agency ANSA.

Government sources have denied that there will be new restrictions forcing the early closure of bars, pubs and restaurants, as widely speculated in the media over recent days.

Yesterday Italian premier Giuseppe Conte also ruled out the prospect of a new lockdown, the same day that the government reactivated its coronavirus task force.

Photo credit: Federico Magonio / Shutterstock.com.