Italy became a mask-free, “low-risk” zone for coronavirus country on Monday, marking a dramatic milestone for the first European country to be hit by the global pandemic in February 2020.
The health ministry on Monday announced that for the first time classified each of Italy’s 20 regions as “white”, signifying low risk, under the country’s color-coded classification system that evaluates Covid-19 risk.
This means that facemasks will no longer be compulsory in outdoor areas, this is welcome news across the country where an ongoing heatwave is expected to push temperatures past 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) in some southern areas this week, reports say.
According to the government, as of Sunday a third of Italy’s population over the age of 12 has been vaccinated, or 17,572,505 people.
Despite the progress, Health Minister Roberto Speranza urged Italians to be careful. “It’s an encouraging result, but caution and prudence is still needed, especially because of the new variants,” Speranza wrote, after signing the ordinance Saturday. “The battle is not yet won.”
Once the images of army trucks transporting coffins from the overflowing morgue in the northern city of Bergamo were seen around the world which was a symbol of the coronavirus crisis in the West, however, Italy has seen coronavirus infections and deaths decreasing in recent weeks.
Meanwhile, long prohibitions have been made from entering the country, tourists from the European Union, Britain, the United States, Canada and Japan are now back after the government removed a quarantine requirement for vaccinated visitors, or those who test negative.
To combat the second wave of coronavirus infections, restrictions were relaxed all over Italy late last month after a long period beginning in November of full or partial regional lockdowns. The entire country was made a “yellow zone”, which brought more freedoms but maintained an overnight curfew that shortened restaurant hours.
As the restrictions were gradually eliminated by the government over the course of June, the lone holdout, until Monday, was the Aosta Valley, the small alpine region in the northwest.
In Italy, more 127,000 people have died of Covid-19-related complications, while more than four million people have been infected.