Italy has made it mandatory to wear face masks outdoors nationwide in an effort to stop a resurgence of coronavirus cases in the country.
Masks must also be worn indoors at shops, offices, and bars and restaurants when not seated at a table.
Although Italy now has far fewer daily cases than other large European countries, new infections jumped to the highest daily tally since April with 3,678 cases reported on Oct. 7 according to data from the Health Ministry. It was the largest daily increase in Italy in more than five months.
Several Italian regions had already made face masks mandatory, but the latest announcement makes them nationwide.
“From now on, masks and protective gear have to be brought with us when we leave our house and worn. We have to wear them all the time unless we are in a situation of continuous isolation,” Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said.
Italy was overwhelmed by COVID-19 earlier this year and has the second-highest death toll in Europe after the UK, with over 36,000 deaths recorded since February, The Guardian reported. The Italian government enacted some of the strictest lockdown measures in the world and was able to manage the virus by the summer. Now, infections are increasing again in Italy and across Europe.
In addition to making masks mandatory, Health Minister Roberto Speranza announced compulsory swab testing on travelers from the UK, Belgium, the Netherlands, and the Czech Republic.
According to the BBC, cases have reached record highs in the Netherlands, Poland, and Ukraine. The Czech Republic now has the highest number of new cases per 100,000 inhabitants over the past 14 days in the EU. Major cities like Paris and Madrid are facing total lockdowns as a second wave of COVID-19 cases has surged.
The importance of wearing masks to stop the spread of COVID-19 is widely-documented. Research shows that masks limit the chances of both transmitting and catching the coronavirus, and some studies even say masks could reduce the severity of the virus for infected individuals.
“We are not defenseless against COVID-19,” said the Centers for Disease Control Director Dr. Robert R. Redfield. “Cloth face coverings are one of the most powerful weapons we have to slow and stop the spread of the virus – particularly when used universally within a community setting.”
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