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How Italy plans to avoid tightening Covid restrictions this summer despite rising cases

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A look at Italy’s latest Covid-19 data is alarming: 5,143 new infections in the past 24 hours alone, more than double the daily rate a week ago. 

The Rt number, a figure that indicates how many others a person infected will pass the virus on to, has risen above 1, the key threshold beyond which transmission becomes difficult to control. According to the latest weekly report by Italy’s Higher Health Institute (ISS), the national Rt stood at 1.26 by July 18th and is believed to have risen since then.

The incidence rate is also increasing sharply, from 19 cases per 100,000 people in Italy the previous week to 41 cases per 100,000 now.

On the island of Sardinia, one of Italy’s most popular summer holiday spots, the regional Rt is as high as 2.24, having doubled from the week before, while the incidence rate is also Italy’s highest at 82.8 new cases per 100,000 residents.

Despite these indicators, the government is hopeful that it can avoid reimposing the restrictions that have limited travel, businesses and events for much of the past 18 months as Italy moves into its peak holiday season.

Its strategy, announced last night by Prime Minister Mario Draghi and Health Minister Roberto Speranza, is two-pronged. First, Italy will significantly expand the use of its Covid-19 health pass, making it compulsory to eat at restaurants indoors, visit museums, attend concerts or sports events and more.

EXPLAINED: When, where and why will you need a Covid health passport in Italy?

“This summer is already peaceful and we want it to remain so,” Draghi told a press conference. “The green pass is a measure that allows Italians to continue running their own businesses, having fun, going to restaurants, attending shows outdoors or indoors, all with the guarantee of being among people who are not contagious.

“In that sense it’s a measure that, though presenting some difficulties in terms of application, gives peace of mind, not one that takes it away.”

While the health passport can also be claimed by anyone who has recently tested negative for the coronavirus or recovered from Covid-19, the easiest way to get a pass that doesn’t have to be repeatedly renewed is to get vaccinated.

Most of Italy’s new infections are among people who are unvaccinated, according to the ISS, which says that cases are ten times lower in people who have had both doses of a Covid vaccine. Infection rates are currently rising sharply among people under 30, who were the last age group in line for a jab and the least likely to have had both shots.

Prime Minister Draghi put it bluntly: “No vaccines mean a new lockdown.

Photo by Roberto MONALDO / POOL / AFP

At the same time, the government has changed the way it decides Italy’s regional restrictions – the system of tiered ‘risk zones’ ranging from white (low) to red (high).

All of Italy’s 20 regions have been white zones since the end of June, allowing every part of the country to relax the rules on wearing masks outdoors, reopen theme parks, cultural centres and indoor swimming pools, and restart weddings and trade fairs.

Until now, any region that recorded more than 50 infections per 100,000 inhabitants in a seven-day period for three weeks in a row risked returning to the slightly more restrictive yellow zone, something local businesses are keen to avoid as summer tourism resumes in earnest.

With Italy’s national weekly incidence rate beginning to approach that threshold and four regions – Sardinia, Veneto, Lazio and Sicily – already over it, the government has once again changed the parameters for remaining a white zone, after already revising them in May to make white-zone status more attainable

Under the previous criteria, “many regions would have become yellow because the previous parameters would have been exceeded”, Draghi explained. Instead the government chose “to introduce the green pass [and] change the parameters in such a way as to keep the regions in the white zone, but with the green pass”. 

READ ALSO: Can tourists use Italy’s Covid health pass to access museums, concerts and indoor dining?

Now the main factor it considers will be hospital occupancy, which up to this point in Italy’s fourth wave has remained relatively low despite the rapid surge in cases. 

Under the new rules, regions can remain white even if their incidence rate tops 50 per 100,000 residents, so long as the percentage of hospital beds occupied by Covid-19 patients does not go over 15 percent – or no more than 10 percent of intensive care beds are full. 

Regions that cross either of these thresholds become yellow, while regions with more than 150 cases per 100,000 people and hospital occupancy of 30 percent, or intensive care occupancy of 20 percent, become orange.

Regions where 40 percent of hospital beds, or 40 percent of intensive care beds, are occupied go into the red zone with maximum restrictions on movement and businesses, close to a form of lockdown. 

Photo by Marco Bertorello / AFP

Nationally, hospital and intensive care occupancy are currently both at around 2 percent, according to the latest weekly ISS report.

Some regional rates are already approaching or over 5 percent, however, including Calabria with 5.7 percent of hospital beds occupied, Sicily with 5.2 percent and Campania with 4.8 percent. Tuscany has the highest percentage of intensive care occupancy (3.4 percent), followed by Sicily (3.3 percent) and Lazio (3 percent). 

While the highly contagious Delta variant – thought to be the factor driving the rapid rise in infection in Italy as in other countries around Europe – has had little impact so far on Italy’s hospital admissions, the example of the United Kingdom suggests that a rise in more serious cases of Covid-19 can’t be ruled out. 

Hospitalisation rates in the UK, where Delta has been the dominant strain of the coronavirus since at least early June, have increased sharply from around 13 per million people at the end of May to 58 per million by mid-July. 

Health experts expected Delta to become the dominant variant in Italy by the end of July, if not before. 

The Italian government is hoping that the combination of the expanded health pass scheme together with the revised white zone criteria will keep all of Italy in the lowest-risk category for most of August – Italy’s busiest month both for international tourist arrivals as well as for domestic holiday bookings.



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What changes about life in Italy in October 2021?

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Some of these changes are confirmed, others still speculative, but each of the following may have an impact on your life in Italy soon. 

Here’s what we can expect in the coming weeks.

Oct 1st: Electricity and gas prices rise

The Italian government has stepped in to limit a steep rise in energy prices in the next quarter, after a 40 percent increase was predicted.

While this means bills won’t rise quite so sharply for Italian businesses and families, energy costs are still set to rise.

Electricity prices are expected to increase by up to 20 percent for those who do not fall into the lowest income brackets, according to Italian media reports, while a smaller rise is expected for gas bills.

READ ALSO: Italy to spend €3bn on keeping household energy bills down as prices soar across Europe

The precise figures won’t be known until the tariff for the upcoming quarter is published by Italy’s energy regulatory authority Arera, by the end of September.

The government’s measures will keep additional costs at zero for those least well-off, including households with an income under 8,265 euros, families with at least 4 dependent children with an income of less than 20,000 euros, those who receive a state pension or unemployment benefit, and people who are seriously ill, Sky TG24 reports.

The government funds will also cut the ‘general charge’ from gas bills for all throughout the last quarter of 2021, and on electricity for families and some small businesses.

Oct 1st: Italy-UK travel rule changes

People planning to travel to the UK from Italy or elsewhere in Europe from this month should note some changes to the entry rules.

From October 1st, due to a Brexit-related rule change the vast majority of EU citizens can no longer travel into the UK using an ID card; only passports are acceptable. Full details HERE.

As for Covid-related restrictions, vaccinated travellers from Europe will no longer have to take pre-departure tests when heading to England from Monday, October 4th.

Photo: Andreas SOLARO/AFP

New Covid restrictions – and a vaccine mandate?

In the coming days, the Italian government is expected to release details of its next decree updating Covid-related rules and restrictions within the country. 

Travel rules will not be included in this update – the next review of restrictions on most non-EU countries will come on October 25th (see below).

It looks likely that the maximum allowed capacity at stadiums, cinemas and theatres will increase after the government’s scientific advisory panel gave the all-clear to plans on Wednesday,

Stadiums will be able to sell tickets up to 75% of their full capacity, compared to 50% at the moment, while cinemas and theatres will be allowed to go up to 80%, according to news agency Ansa.

There will be no capacity restrictions for museums, although they will be obliged to make sure social distancing is respected.

All venues will only be allowed to admit customers with the green pass.

The Italian government is also considering whether to make vaccinations mandatory for more groups if it decides the rate of vaccination in the country is too low, and says it will make a decision by the beginning of October.

Vaccination coverage is one of the key factors the health ministry will take into account when deciding on any upcoming changes to the coronavirus restrictions.

Italy is tantalisingly close to reaching the government’s stated target of having 80 percent of the population fully immunised by September 30th – with some regions doing better than others.

Photo: Marco BERTORELLO / AFP

Oct 15th: Green pass requirement at all workplaces

This is the most important change to be aware of this month if you work in Italy.

From October 15th, the next extension of Italy’s green pass scheme will require all employees across the public and private sectors to show that they are vaccinated, recovered or have proof of a recent negative coronavirus test uding the country’s green pass health certificate.

Unvaccinated workers without medical exemptions will need to take regular tests at their own expense unless their workplace decides to provide them for free.

Employees who fail to produce a pass face penalties of between €600 and €1,500, and salaries can be frozen from the first day that they arrive at work without the certificate. Employers are subject to fines of between €400 and €1,000 for failing to uphold the rules.

Find more details about how the rules will work in practice here.

Oct 15th. Some people are allowed to switch their heating on

You read that right. Italy has restrictions on when (and how much) you’re allowed to heat your home, and the first places to be allowed to crank up the thermostat are northern and mountainous parts of the country, starting from mid-October.

Italy is divided into several categories depending on when authorities think it’s appropriate to turn the heating on in each area.

Those in the balmier coastal areas in places like Sicily and Calabria are last to be permitted to flick the switch on December 1st. Find out when you can turn your heating on here.

Photo: GIUSEPPE CACACE/AFP

Oct 15th: New national airline ITA takes off

This is also the date that Italy’s new flag carrier ITA, replacing long-struggling Alitalia, will begin operating and selling tickets.

Alitalia will cease operating on October 14th and the company has confirmed that customers with bookings after that date can rebook or get a refund.

Oct 25th: Italy to review rules on travel from the US and Canada

Towards the end of the month, we’ll be keeping an eye on possible changes to the Covid-related rules on travel from ‘D-list’ countries including the US and Canada, with Italy’s current set of rules for arrivals from these countries in force until October 25th.

Oct 31st: Don’t forget to change your clocks

At 3am on Sunday, October 31st, the clocks will go back by one hour marking the end of summer time.



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IRFU must shoulder some blame for state of women’s rugby in Ireland

Voice Of EU

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Watching the distressed female Irish players trying to console each other after Saturday’s heartbreaking, last-ditch defeat by Scotland in Parma which wrenched World Cup qualification aspirations from their grasp made for a very uncomfortable, almost invasive, watch. It was a relief when the RTÉ cameras panned back to the studio.

Watching Sene Naoupu embracing a tearful Ciara Griffin, it’s a wonder that Naoupu had kept her own emotions under control. Representing Ireland at a World Cup in her native New Zealand would have been such a fitting finale to her stellar career.

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Q&A: Can foreigners become civil servants in Spain?

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For many Spaniards, landing a stable, paper-pushing civil servant position is the dream.

They know it’s not going to be exciting or to make them rich but they see funcionario work as ‘a job for life’ in a country where the unemployment level is notoriously high and much of the job market is based on temporary summer positions in tourism.

They also like the fact that civil servant jobs pay a decent salary compared with the national average and often work fewer hours too.

Funcionario positions in Public Administration, Social Security and Defense were paid an average of €29,580 gross per year in 2020.

This is higher than the national average gross salary of €24,395 per year, according to stats released by Spain’s National Statistics Institute (INE), although that’s not to say some civil servants get paid considerably less than the above mentioned salary.  

So, if jobs in the civil service are so popular then how can you get one as a foreigner?

Can foreigners in Spain get civil service jobs?

The main answer is yes, you can get a job in the civil service in Spain as a foreigner, however, there are a few requirements.

Those eligible for civil servant jobs in Spain include EU nationals and those who are married to Spanish or EU nationals. You must currently be married and not divorced.

Children of EU nationals who are eligible to work in Spain (over 16 years old) and who are under 21 can also apply, as can those who are over 21 but who are financially dependent on their parents.

Third-country nationals with work and residence permits in Spain may also apply for civil service jobs.

READ ALSO: How can non-EU nationals bring family members to live in Spain?

Does this apply to all jobs in the civil service?  

No, the only jobs that foreigners can’t apply for and that you must have Spanish nationality for are those which “directly or indirectly imply participation in the exercise of public power or in the safeguarding of the general interests of the State and Public Administrations” according to the Spanish government.

What qualifications do I need?  

While some civil service jobs in Spain require a university degree, there are several that don’t.

Whatever types of qualifications you have, however, will have to go through the homologación (recognition) process so that it’s validated and accepted in Spain. Keep in mind that this can take months, and for non-EU qualification holders even longer.

You may also be required to show other proof and certificates.

According to the Spanish government: “This requirement will not apply to applicants who have obtained recognition of their professional qualification in the field of regulated professions, under the provisions of Community law”.

It also goes without saying that you will need a high level of Spanish to get a job as a civil servant and you may need certificates to prove this too. If you’re trying to get a job in Catalonia for example, you may also be required to know Catalan, as well as Spanish. 

What are oposiciones?

Oposiciones are the entrance exams you’ll need to sit to become a civil servant in Spain. Each type of position will have its own requirements, some easier and some harder, which involve a series of exams to test your abilities and suitability.

Some positions may require practical exams, while others such as for the police force will require a physical test. 

READ ALSO – Not just English teaching: The jobs you can do in Spain without speaking Spanish

Photo: FREDERICK FLORIN / AFP

Is there anything that will prevent me from getting a civil servant job in Spain?

Yes, foreigners should not have received disciplinary action or been fired from similar roles in public service in their own countries.

Also, those who are applying for jobs where they will be in contact with children may have to show a police check from their home country to prove that their record is clean.

READ ALSO: What are the types of work contracts in Spain and which one is the best?

What are the advantages of being a civil servant in Spain?

  • A decent salary
  • You have the right to take holiday days in addition to personal days off
  • Your social security is automatically deducted, giving you healthcare and pension rights
  • It’s a stable job that you are less likely to be made redundant from
  • You have the possibility of transferring to different departments

READ ALSO: The downsides of moving to Spain for work

What are the disadvantages of being a civil servant in Spain?

  • It’s a big investment in time and effort to get a job as a civil servant
  • The need for qualifications, extra tests, and exams
  • The extensive number of requirements and paperwork that needs to be filled out
  • Complicated systems as well as old-fashioned and bureaucratic work models
  • Monotonous work, where you’re unlikely to face new challenges
  • Little to no opportunities for remote employment



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