The Italian government has announced that Italians must wear their face masks any time they are outdoors. The announcement was made as a result of the steady increase in the number of positive COVID-19 cases in the past nine weeks. Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said in a statement that the number of positive cases has continued to rise and if it is left unchecked, the country might be heading back to the gloom it faced some months ago.
“We do not want to place heavy restrictions that can affect the economy of the country and the social lives of people,” Conte stated. “It is important that we follow all mandates and protocols.”
Italians will be mandated to pay a fine of up to £1000 ($1,163) if they are found without their masks in public places. The decree was announced on Wednesday and will be strictly followed until January 31, next year. The country has recorded over 36,000 deaths to coronavirus pandemic. On Wednesday, 31 people died as a result of COVID-19 complications and 3,678 new cases were recorded. These figures contributed to the new mask mandate which is now imposed on the country.
The Southern regions of the country that were not largely affected by the first outbreak in April are also at high risk with people violating social distancing protocols and other safety guidelines. The country has taken an initiative to impose face masks even though it is not clearly recommended by WHO.
It is stipulated in the decree that all inhabitants older than six and not inhibited by a medical condition must have their masks on whenever they are outside their homes. The masks must be appropriately used except when in the midst of family members only. This means that residents must wear masks outdoors when they have any contact with anyone who is not a family member. People eating in bars and restaurants are not mandated to wear masks.
The decree also stated that masks must be worn in workplaces, schools, and other places with the exception of a person’s private home. The PM however advised the use of masks even when at home since many new cases are contracted from family members.
“We cannot mandate people to wear masks when they are at home, but we strongly recommend it,” the prime minister said. “We have to be cautious even when we are with our family members.”
Children below the age of six, participants in outdoor sporting events, and people who have medical conditions that can be exacerbated by the use of masks are exempted from following the mask mandate. Violators will be fined £400-£1000 ($463-$1,163) as announced by ANSA, an Italian news agency.
Spain, North Macedonia, Turkey, India, and some other countries in Asia took this step before Italy. Turkey imposed the mandate on citizens in September while Spain gave the order in May. European cities with a high number of active cases such as Paris have also mandated residents to wear masks outdoors.
Paris and Brussels have shut down their bars and mandated restaurants to be more cautious or risk being closed down too but the Italian Prime Minister has announced that bars will not be closed in the country. The Vatican City also imposed masks on residents but Pope Francis shook hands with people on Wednesday without wearing one.