The whole of Italy is in lockdown due to the coronavirus. 20 regions, 60 million people. This means that all non-essential travel to, from and within Italy is banned, for nearly a month from Tuesday March 10. Note, there is still a lot of confusion as to what movement will actually be permitted, though essential travel does include for work. Read on.
As the death toll from the coronavirus rose by 80% in 2 days from 97 to 463, the Italian Government decided late Monday evening to extend the quarantine area in northern Italy to the whole of the country until April 3.
The entire country is now a “protected area” declared Italian Prime Minister, Giuseppe Conte Monday. “There is no more time,” he said, in the race to contain the spread of the disease. All movement around the country is prohibited except for “proven needs”.
“The First Country In The World: All Of Italy A “Protected Area” reads a headline of La Repubblica. On Sunday, Italian authorities placed a quarter of the country’s population-some 16 million people–in quarantine. Now, within a day, it has decided on even more drastic measures to curb the severe outbreak of COVID-19 which has taken hold in Italy since February 26. “Tougher measures are needed,” Conte said announcing the move.
“We will win this battle,” he tweeted, “Let’s all act responsibly.” The tweet was accompanied by the sign “Stay at home, show the virus the door.”
What Does The Lockdown Mean
In Italy, people are being urged to stay at home and freedom of movement is severely restricted except for work and emergency reasons. Universities, schools, swimming pools, theatres, cinemas, museums, monuments, historic sites and cultural centres are closed. Sporting and cultural events are off. All ski resorts are closed.
All public gatherings are banned nationwide. This includes religious ceremonies such as weddings and baptisms.
Forget the social life Pubs, bingo rooms, nightclubs and discos are closed. Conte said there was to be “no more nightlife”–as “they are occasions for contagion”.
Bars and restaurants can still stay open from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. if operators ensure customers sit a meter apart. If not the government shuts them down.
Supermarkets and food stores are open.
Shopping centres and department stores remain open for now though must close on public holidays and the day before them.
Business As Usual? Other commercial activities continue too. Conte said there would be no blocks on business and manufacturing activity. But on their movement yes. Confusion over what that means for factories and workers, is tackled in this economic story in La Corriere della Sera. In principle travel for work is ok, it suggests, as trade unions and businesses meet to clarify the situation.
Churches and other religious venues remain open on condition they respect the one-metre distance rule.
No More Kissing and Hugging Italian government guidelines drawn up in consultation with medical and scientific experts recommends people to stop greeting friends with handshakes, kisses or hugs. They should also guard a one-metre distance from each other.
Should You Travel To Italy
Other than for “essential travel” no. For Italians as for foreign residents or tourists, only those with valid work or family reasons are allowed to travel. (Many US companies are now forbidding all non-essential travel to Italy for employees, and may widen the travel bans).
For trips that cannot be postponed, passengers departing or arriving on flights must justify themselves to authorities. This comes in the form of a standardised document, which you sign, explaining your travel reasons. You can print it here from the Italian Interior Ministry’s website. The same applies to those arriving or leaving train stations.
The “self-declaration” form shown below is essential to justify movement within the Italian quarantine zone, and entering and exiting one region or another, or the country. Newspaper Corriere della Sera provides useful information on how to fill it out. It also has the form in a downloadable version, as does La Repubblica.
Officials will check the form at passport and customs points, at airports and train stations. For road checks, the Corriere della Sera claims “a simple verbal declaration” will suffice. The controls it writes will be random. “For health reasons, it will also be advisable to show a medical certificate. Or in the case of business reasons, a company statement.”
Controls are also being set up at train stations to check the temperatures of passengers. Cruise ships are forbidden to dock at some ports, including Venice reports BBC.
Prime Minister Conte’s precise words on the travel restrictions according to La Repubblica were: “There is no restriction on public transport on the agenda, to ensure continuity of the manufacturing sector and allow people to go to work.” “Self-certification” in order to justify one’s movements is mandatory he said. And if such certification is falsified, offenders will be punished for a criminal offense he said.
The idea said deputy health minister, Pierpaolo Sileri, was not to stop movement at all costs, but to ensure that everyone exercises “the highest sense of responsibility.”
Check Your Foreign Travel Advisories For The Latest Updates
Many countries including the UK Foreign Office and US Department of State are urging their nationals to avoid all but essential travel to Italy. The U.S. is yet to raise its travel advisory for the whole of Italy to level 4 (“Do Not Travel To”), as it did for Lombardy and the Veneto early March, due to the risks “of community transmission of the virus, and imposition of local quarantine procedures.”
Monitor for a change on this situation, that may come any day now. Australia’s Foreign Affairs Department Smartraveller has lifted its warning for the northern Italy region to a Level 4 Do Not Travel, while maintaining a Level 3 warning Reconsider Your need To Travel for the rest of the country. Watch that space too.
Emergency Numbers To Dial In Italy
The general emergency line is 112. 1500 if you believe you have symptoms and are currently in Italy. English speaking operators are available advises the US Embassy in Italy. The Italian National Institute of Health’s website has up to date information, but is only available in Italian.