The following post is written by Dante Figueroa, a senior legal information analyst at the Law Library of Congress. He has recently written on the Italian Parliamentary Library and Spanish Legal Documents (15th to 19th Century).
As of March 11, 2020, 10,590 persons have tested positive for COVID-19 in Italy, with an additional 827 dead from the coronavirus. With 7,280 cases, the northern Lombardy region is the most affected in the country.
Since February, the Italian government’s response to the outbreak of the virus has gradually become more severe, so that currently the stringent measures initially enacted for the northern regions are now in place for the whole national population of 60 million.
In this post I highlight four pieces of legislation that have been enacted to tackle the effects of the outbreak since February 23, 2020. They are presented chronologically, from the most recent to the oldest:
1. Decree of the President of the Council of Ministers of March 9, 2020
On March 9, 2020, the Italian government issued a new regulation (Decree of the President of the Council of Ministers (Presidenza del Consiglio dei Ministri) approving urgent measures to contain the contagion from the COVID-19 virus throughout the whole national territory. The Decree forbids any form of gathering of people in public places or open to the public throughout the whole national territory (art. 1(2)) and extends the suspension of all sporting events established for specific regions by the Decree of March 8, 2020 (art. 1(1)(d)) to the whole national territory (Decree of March 9, 2020, art. 1(3)). All these measures remain in force until April 3, 2020, and repeal any provisions of the Decree of the President of the Council of Ministers issued on March 8, 2020 (art. 2.).
2. Ministry of Interior Directive of March 9, 2020 on “Checks in the Reinforced Containment Areas”
On March 9, 2020, the Ministry of the Interior (Ministero dell’Interno)issued a Directive on “Checks in the Reinforced Containment Areas,” which was addressed to prefetti (administrators of provinces and metropolitan cities) throughout the national territory. The directive list the following measures:
- The immediate call of the Provincial Committees for public order and safety to assume coordinating measures (art. 1);
- Specific indications for the control of limits established in the displacement of persons in and out of the country in containment areas (art. 2), in particular:
- Movements may only be authorized based on work situations or situations of necessity or based on health reasons to be attested through a self-affidavit; quarantined persons or those deemed positive with the virus are under an absolute duty to remain in their dwellings, with no exceptions (art. 2(a));
- The same controls are mandatory throughout all national road infrastructure and transportation systems (art. 2(b));
- Controls in the national railway system and at Italian airports (with the exclusion of passengers in transit) also includes the use of “thermoscan” on travelers (art. 2(c)-(d));
- Concerning Schengen and non-Schengen flight departures, the self-affidavitd are required only for residents of the territories under control; for Schengen and non-Schengen arrivals, passengers must justify the purpose of their trips upon entry (art. 2(e));
- The same controls must be applied in Venice for cruise passengers, whose disembarkment is prohibited and they must return to their places of origin (art. 2(f)); and
- Non-compliance with these guidelines is punished according to article 650 of the Criminal Code, unless a more serious offense takes place (art. 4).
3. Decree of the President of the Council of Ministers of March 8, 2020
On March 8, 2020, the Italian government issued a Decree of the President of the Council of Ministers, on Further Provisions Implementing Decree-Law No. 6 of February 23, 2020, containing Urgent Measures to Contain and Manage the Epidemiological Emergency Caused by the COVID-19 (Decreto del Presidente del Consiglio dei Ministri 8 marzo 2020 Ulteriori Disposizioni Attuative del Decreto-Legge 23 Febbraio 2020, n. 6, recante Misure Urgenti in materia di Contenimento e Gestione dell’Emergenza Epidemiologica da COVID-19).
The Decree enumerates the following urgent measures to contain the contagion in the region of Lombardy and the provinces of Modena, Parma, Piacenza, Reggio nell’Emilia, Rimini, Pesaro and Urbino, Alessandria, Asti, Novara, Verbano-Cusio-Ossola, Vercelli, Padova, Treviso, and Venezia:
- Bans the entry or exit of individuals from the designated territories, as well as within such territories, except for proven reasons related to work, health, or necessity (art. 1(1)(a));
- Recommends that persons with symptoms of respiratory infection or fever higher than 37.5°C remain at home and limit their social contacts to a minimum(art. 1(1)(b));
- Absolute prohibition on quarantined individuals who have tested positive from moving from their own home or dwelling (art. 1(1)(c));
- Suspends all sporting events and competitions of every type in public or private places. Sports facilities are usable only with closed doors exclusively for the training sessions of athletes, recognized to be of national interest by the National Italian Olympic Committee (CONI, in Italian) or by the respective federations, with a view to their participation in Olympic Games or other national or international events. The Decree allows sport events and competitions organized by international sports organizations, performed indoors under closed doors, or in the open without the presence of the public. In any case, such organizations must provide for strict medical measures aimed at containing the spread of the virus among athletes, coaches, managers or other stakeholders (art. 1(1)(d));
- Forbids the use of lifts in ski areas (art. 1(1)(f));
- Forbids all organized events and activities of any nature in public or private places or in closed places open to the public (art. 1(1)(g));
- Bans all educational services for infants and for school students of any grade and type, as well as at any type of higher education institutions (art. 1(1)(h));
- Allows for the opening of places of worship conditioned onthe strict measures aimed at avoiding the gatherings of people, in a manner that a distance of at least one meter is kept between persons. All civil and religious services, including funerary services are suspended (art. 1(1)(i));
- Closes all museums and cultural institutions (art. 1(1)(l)); and
- Permits commercial activities on the condition that managers guarantee public access on a contingent basis avoiding the gathering of persons, and enforcing the obligation of any person to keep at least one meter of distance from each other (art. 1(1)(o)).
Additionally, the Decree enumerates measures aimed at containing the spread of the virus throughout the whole national territory that mirror those established for the aforementioned localities, but that also contemplate the following:
- Suspends all meetings and social events involving health personnel or staff that perform essential public services or of public utility (art. 2(1)(a));
- Forbids all organized events and activities of any nature in public or private places or in closed places open to the public (art. 2(1)(b));
- Recommends employers, whenever possible, to grant employees periods of ordinary leave or vacation (art. 2(1)(s)); and
- Lists measures aimed at avoiding contagion among persons subject to confinement at penitentiary institutions, also recommending the evaluation of implementing the alternative measure of domiciliary arrest (art. 2(1)(u)).
Furthermore, the Decree enacts measures concerning information and prevention for the whole national territory, including the following:
- Health personnel must abide by the guidelines concerning pandemics established by the World Health Organization (WHO), and the Italian Health Ministry (art. 3(1)(a));
- Vulnerable persons are to refrain from leaving their dwellings, except in cases of extreme need (art. 3(1)(b));
- Infected persons must remain in their dwellings and limit social contacts to a minimum (art. 3(1)(d));
- Information on sanitary preventative measures must be displayed throughout educational, commercial, cultural, sports, and government entities (art. 3(1)(e)-(g)); and
- Hand disinfectants must be made widely available at public agencies (art. 3(1)(h));
- Anyone who, within the fourteen days prior to March 8, 2020, has entered into Italy after having stayed in areas identified as of epidemiological risk by the WHO, must communicate such fact to the Department of Prevention of the respective healthcare institution as well as to his own physician (art. 3(1)(m)); and
- In the case above, health institutions must: (a) contact the infected person over the phone to obtain as much detailed information as possible (art. 3(2)(a)); (b) inform the affected person of the sanitary measures to be adopted (art. 3(2)(b)); (c) determine the quarantine of the infected person and the visit regime by his treating physician (art. 3(2)(c)); and (d) issue of a certificate justifying the patient’s absence from work, for employment and social security purposes (art. 3(2)(d)).
Finally, the Decree lists measures to monitor the evolution of quarantined persons:
- Local law enforcement authorities are authorized to use the police, firefighters, and the armed forces, if necessary, to secure compliance with the measures contemplated in the Decree (art. 4(1)); and
- Lack of compliance with the Decree is punished according to article 650 of the Criminal Code (“non-compliance with orders of the authority”)(art. 4(2)).
4. Decree-Law No. 6 of February 23, 2020
Decree-Law No. 6 of February 23, 2020, containing Urgent Measures to Contain and manage the Epidemiological Emergency Caused by COVID-19 (Decreto-legge 23 febbraio 2020, n. 6 Misure Urgenti in materia di Contenimento e Gestione dell’Emergenza Epidemiologica da COVID-19) listed measures that were aimed at tackling the, by that date, nascent spread of COVID-19, including:
- A provision requiring that, in areas where at least one person has tested positive for the virus and the source of transmission is not known, or where a case is not attributable to a person from an area already affected, the relevant authorities must take adequate and proportionate containment measures to manage the evolution of the situation (art. 1(1));
- Prohibition of removal from the affected area of all persons resident in the area (art. 1(2)(a));
- Prohibition of entry into the affected area (art. 1(2)(b));
- Suspension of all public events of any type, in either public or private places, even if performed in closed places that are open to the public (art. 1(2)(c));
- Application of quarantine measures over all infected individuals that have had close contact with patients who have tested positive (art. 1(2)(h));
- Closing of all commercial activities, with the exception of those necessary for the acquisition of merchandise of first necessity (art. 1(2)(j));
- Suspension of work activities, except those that provide essential services and public utilities and those that may be performed from home (art. 1(2)(n));
- Other measures not contemplated in Decree-Law No. 6 that the authority considers necessary to contain the dissemination of the COVID-19 epidemics (art. 2(1)); and
- Decree-Law No. 6 appropriates 20 million Euros to finance the contemplated measures (art. 4(1)).
5. New Stringent Legislation on Violations of Restrictions
On March 24, 2020, the Italian government issued Decree-Law No.19 raising the fines for violations of the lockdown measures currently applicable to the whole country. The new fines vary between 400 to 3,000 Euros (about US$440 to US$3,303). Additionally, the new decree increases to five years the maximum incarceration penalty for those who violate a quarantine after testing positive for COVID-19. In particular, the conduct subject to being penalized includes violation of the prohibition on circulation and containment rules and violation of stop orders for commercial activities for 30 days. Per the new decree, the presidents of the regions may impose even more restrictive measures in their territories, to be validated within seven days by decree of the President of the Council of Ministers. The latter remains the sole authority under the national Constitution to impose temporary restrictive measures over the whole population on an urgent basis. (Constitution, arts. 92 & 95, para. 2.)
The Council of Ministers is also currently discussing a decree law that consolidates all legislation recently enacted to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic, with a tentative timeline for its approval within 15 days.
UPDATE: This post was updated on March 27, 2020, to insert Question 5 to reflect new information.