Italy makes face masks mandatory, prolongs COVID state of emergency


Posted at Oct 07 2020 09:24 PM

Italy makes face masks mandatory, prolongs COVID state of emergency 1
Chairs are stacked at a restaurant after the southern Italian region of Campania made it mandatory for bars and restaurants to close at 11.00.p.m., as part of the efforts to contain the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Naples, Italy on October 6, 2020. Ciro De Luca, Reuters

ROME - Italy on Wednesday made it mandatory to wear face masks outdoors nationwide in an effort to reduce rising COVID-19 infections, the health ministry said after the cabinet agreed on the measure.

After curbing the epidemic by imposing a rigid lockdown between March and May, Italy has seen a steady increase in new cases in the last two months, reporting an average of more than 2,400 infections daily in the past week, a Reuters tally shows.

The decree imposing masks outdoors will probably be effective from Thursday, a government source said.

Several Italian regions including Lazio, around the capital Rome, have already made face masks mandatory.

Italy has the highest death toll in continental Europe with over 36,000 confirmed fatalities since its outbreak came to light on Feb. 21.

However, its daily infection numbers are now much lower than those recorded in other major European countries such as France, Spain and Britain.

The cabinet also approved a decree to extend the COVID-19 state of emergency to Jan.31.

The state of emergency, originally due to expire in mid-October, gives greater powers to central government, making it easier for officials to bypass the bureaucracy that smothers much decision-making in Italy.