Coronavirus: Italy shuts down some beaches and walkways after crowds defy quarantine

Beaches and promenades in some parts of Italy were closed down on Monday after crowds filled them over the weekend in violation of coronavirus lockdown rules.

Coronavirus: Italy shuts down some beaches and walkways after crowds defy quarantine
The seaside town of La Spezia has closed access to its historic walkways. File photo: Alex Ghizila/Unsplash

The Italian Riviera around the northern city of Genoa was one area now cracking down on people flouting the rules over the weekend, after many people reportedly went outside to enjoy the unusually mild and sunny weather.

Italy has imposed a nationwide ban on public gatherings to slow a pandemic that has killed more than 2,100 people in the Mediterranean nation since last month.

READ ALSO: 'Stay at home': Italy's new coronavirus quarantine rules explained

But many Italians have second homes in holiday hotpots across the country, such as the mountainside port of La Spezia.

A local decree published Monday closed access to La Spezia's historic walkways and staircases until April 3.

Italy's ANSA news agency said similar bans were imposed for the beaches in the nearby towns of Lerici and Porto Venere.

The nearby Rapallo beach was also cordoned off on Sunday.

The number of reported deaths in Genoa's Liguria region nearly doubled from 27 to 50 between Saturday and Monday.

Many Italians took to social media to criticise their compatriots far walking around in violation of the rules and risking the health of those who are particularly vulnerable to the new disease, which is sweeping across Europe.

Italian senate member Stefano Bertacco – a 57-year-old who has cancer and has isolated himself in his home in the northeastern city of Verona – posted an especially poignant message for the weekend beach strollers.

“I too would like to take a walk,” Bertacco said in a video message. “But it might be my last.”

Some regional governments across Italy have been bringing in tougher restrictions in addition to those brought in nationwide last week.

Local authorities in Sicily on Monday called for flights, trains and passenger ferries connecting the island to mainland Italy to be cancelled following an influx of people arriving in recent days.

The Sicilian city of Catania on Monday also stepped up police controls after reports of large numbers of people on the lungomare, or promenade, over the weekend.

And the governor of the Veneto region on Sunday urged “everyone to remain in isolation” to avoid putting hospitals under further strain.

“If you do not follow the rules, the health system will crash and I will have to impose a curfew,” Veneto governor Luca Zaia warned.
Meanwhile, some of those staying home in the south of the country this weekend shared photos on social media of their attempts to recreate the beach on their balconies instead.

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Covid face mask rule on flights in Europe set to be eased

The mandatory EU-wide mask requirement for air travel is set to be dropped from Monday, May 16th, but airlines may still require passengers to wear masks on some or all flights

Covid face mask rule on flights in Europe set to be eased

Europe-wide facemask rules on flights are set to be ditched as early as next week in light of new recommendations from health and air safety experts.

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) dropped recommendations for mandatory mask-wearing in airports and during flights in updated Covid-19 safety measures for travel issued on Wednesday, May 11th.

The new rules are expected to be rolled out from Monday, May 16th, but airlines may still continue to require the wearing of masks on some or all of flights. And the updated health safety measures still say that wearing a face mask remains one of the best ways to protect against the transmission of the virus.

The joint EASA/ECDC statement reminded travellers that masks may still be required on flights to destinations in certain countries that still require the wearing of masks on public transport and in transport hubs.

It also recommends that vulnerable passengers should continue to wear a face mask regardless of the rules, ideally an FFP2/N95/KN95 type mask which offers a higher level of protection than a standard surgical mask.

“From next week, face masks will no longer need to be mandatory in air travel in all cases, broadly aligning with the changing requirements of national authorities across Europe for public transport,” EASA executive director Patrick Ky said in the statement. 

“For passengers and air crews, this is a big step forward in the normalisation of air travel. Passengers should however behave responsibly and respect the choices of others around them. And a passenger who is coughing and sneezing should strongly consider wearing a face mask, for the reassurance of those seated nearby.”  

ECDC director Andrea Ammon added: “The development and continuous updates to the Aviation Health Safety Protocol in light of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic have given travellers and aviation personnel better knowledge of the risks of transmission of SARS-CoV-2 and its variants. 

“While risks do remain, we have seen that non-pharmaceutical interventions and vaccines have allowed our lives to begin to return to normal. 

“While mandatory mask-wearing in all situations is no longer recommended, it is important to be mindful that together with physical distancing and good hand hygiene it is one of the best methods of reducing transmission. 

“The rules and requirements of departure and destination states should be respected and applied consistently, and travel operators should take care to inform passengers of any required measures in a timely manner.”