“From June 28 we are moving past the need to wear masks outdoors in white zones, though [this will be done] always in compliance with precautionary measures established by the CTS [scientific technical committee],” Italian Health Minister Roberto Speranza announced via a social media post on Monday.
Italy will lift a requirement that people wear face masks outdoors from June 28, the government said late on Monday, as COVID-19 cases and hospitalisations decline.
Mandatory masks were imposed in October last year, when the country was entering a second wave of the epidemic and authorities were struggling to curb surging infections.
Mario Draghi’s government has been steadily lifting restrictions since April, opening activities such as restaurants, bars, cinemas and gyms and allowing freedom of movement around the country.
The wearing of masks was one of the last rules to remain in place, and it will still be required in indoor public areas.
The decision will be effective from next Monday when the whole nation is expected to be a COVID-19 white zone, the lowest risk level in Italy’s four-tier colour-coded system to calibrate curbs in its 20 regions.
Nineteen of the regions are already white, the exception being the tiny northern area of Valle d’Aosta which is yellow, denoting the second-lowest risk level.
“From June 28 we will leave behind the need to wear masks outside in white zones,” Health Minister Roberto Speranza posted on Facebook after receiving advice from the government’s board of experts.
Italians should still carry a mask with them when they leave home and be ready to wear it outdoors if there is a crowd.
The announcement follows similar decisions in other European states such as France and Spain, although worries remain in Europe over the spread of the new, highly contagious Delta variant.
Some 26% of Italians have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, while around 52% have received at least one shot, figures broadly in line with other large European Union countries.
Cases are at their lowest level in 2021 and pressure on hospitals is easing steadily.
Newspaper La Repubblica reported that the current rule that diners in restaurants may only remove their masks when they are seated will remain in place.
The Italian government had initially promised to end mask requirements in mid-July, but on Monday health advisers gave the green light to relax restrictions from June 28, news agency ANSA reported.
Italy, with its 60 million inhabitants, registered 495 new infections within 24 hours on Monday, bringing the total caseload to 4.2 million as well as 21 new Covid-19-related deaths, for a total of nearly 128,000.