Italy tightens covid-19 restrictions in five regions as Sardinia turns 'white'

Milan returns to orange zone while Sardinia becomes Italy's first white zone.

Italy has tightened restrictions in five regions under the nation's colour-coded system of coronavirus measures, amid warnings from scientists about the spread of new virus variants.

The regions of Basilicata in the south and Molise in the centre have been declared red zones, the highest-risk category, based on the level of covid-19 infection rates.

The most restrictive rules apply in red zones, with bars and restaurants closed, movement severely restricted, and only essential shops open.

The measures, which take effect from 1 March, also see three regions move from lower-risk yellow zones to the medium-risk orange zones.

The regions are Lombardia (Milan) and Piemonte (Turin) in the north and the central Marche region.

In orange zones restaurants and bars are closed except for take-away but shops remain open. People can only leave their towns and cities for work, health or emergency reasons.

There was good news for Sardinia as the island becomes the first region in Italy to be classified in the lowest-risk white zone, with effect from 1 March.

Only minimal restrictions will apply and the move paves the way for the reopening of gyms, swimming pools, cinemas and theatres, however this may not happen until next week as regional authorities say they are taking a cautious approach.

From today the island's restaurants can stay open until 23.00 and bars until 21.00, with the curfew reduced from 23.30 - 05.00 compared to the national curfew of 22.00-05.00.

People in Sardinia will still be required to wear masks even outdoors and the ban on people gathering together in crowds stays in place.  

The Lazio region around Rome remains classified as a lower-risk yellow zone, with restaurants and bars open until 18.00, and shops open as normal.

As of 1 March, Italy's 20 regions are divided like this: two red, nine orange, eight yellow and one white.

For official information relating to the covid-19 situation in Italy see the health ministry website.

Photo La Repubblica.