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Italy: Update on Measures to Fight the Covid-19 Pandemic

(May 28, 2020) On May 17, 2020, the president of Italy’s Council of Ministers issued a decree containing measures to implement Decree-Laws No. 19 of March 25, 2020, and No. 33 of May 16, 2020, on urgent measures to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally, on May 19, 2020, a new ordinance issued by the Presidency of the Council of Ministers governing certain commercial activities in relation to the pandemic took effect in the country.

Further Implementation of Decree-Law No. 19 of 2020

Decree-Law No. 19 of 2020 contained stringent new measures concerning violations of restrictions imposed during the Covid-19 pandemic. As of March 27, 2020, the Council of Ministers was discussing a decree-law to be approved within 15 days that would consolidate all legislation previously enacted to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic. The Decree of May 17, 2020 (Decree) fulfilled this purpose, specifying that all of the restrictive measures included in the consolidated legislation and regulations would be valid until June 14, 2020. (Decree art. 11.1.)

Additionally, the Decree of May 17, 2020, contains 17 addenda dealing with different topics. Addendum 1 approves a protocol between the Italian government and the Catholic Church concerning the reopening of religious venues and events. The protocol addresses diverse topics, including

  • health safety measures to prevent and contain the pandemic, such as taking parishioners’ temperatures on entry and preventing crowded conditions at religious venues;
  • maintaining at least one meter (about 3.3 feet) of distance between persons;
  • use of volunteers to guarantee organized entry into religious facilities;
  • setting up separate entrances and exits to ensure a smooth flow of circulation;
  • mandatory use of face masks at religious sites;
  • prohibiting the entry of persons who have tested positive for COVID-19 or are experiencing a fever equal to or higher than 37.5 degrees Celsius (99.5 degrees Fahrenheit);
  • use of hand sanitizer in the interior of religious facilities;
  • thorough periodic cleaning of places and objects exposed to the public;
  • maintenance of dry holy water fountains;
  • reducing the number of religious ministers during celebrations to a minimum;
  • use of an organist but not choirs;
  • prohibiting exchanges of the sign of peace;
  • additional sanitary measures for distributing and receiving communion;
  • holding confessions in large, airy places guaranteeing both distancing and confidentiality;
  • posting a sign at church entrances indicating the maximum number of participants according to the size of the edifice, among other essential indications.

The protocol provides that ultimate responsibility for ensuring compliance with the aforementioned measures resides with the respective bishop. Bishops may also allow for the celebration of religious events in open places, provided that the dignity of the celebrations is maintained and sanitary rules are followed.

Similar protocols were also signed with other religious entities operating in Italy. (Addenda 2–7.)

The remaining addenda deal with, among other things, safety measures concerning games in which children and adolescents participate, live shows and movies, commercial activities, workplaces, transportation activities, mass transportation means, and guidelines for the reopening of economic and productive activities in the regions and autonomous provinces.

Sale of Face Masks at Tobacco Stores in Accordance with the Ordinance

To ensure that the largest possible number of persons have access to face masks to protect against the spread of COVID-19, the ordinance allows holders of administrative concessions for the resale of tobacco and other monopolistic items covered by the Italian Tobacconists Federation (Federazione Italiana Tabaccai, F.I.T.) to sell face masks to the public. (Ordinance art. 1(1).)