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HEALTH

Distant deckchairs and plastic barriers: The coronavirus precautions you could see on Italian beaches this summer

Italy's beaches might look very different this summer, as the travel industry tries to come up with ways to ensure Italians can still go to the coast despite the coronavirus outbreak.

Distant deckchairs and plastic barriers: The coronavirus precautions you could see on Italian beaches this summer
Italy's beaches remain off-limits until quarantine restrictions are relaxed. Photo: Alberto Pizzoli/AFP

Millions head to Italian beaches every summer, and over a month into Italy's Covid-19 lockdown more and more people are wondering whether they'll be able to do the same this year.

“We'll go to the seaside this summer,” undersecretary for culture Lorenza Bonaccorsi told Rai News over the weekend. “We're working to make that possible.”

READ ALSO: Will Italy's tourism industry ever fully recover from the coronavirus shutdown?

Among the options being considered are rules to enforce social distancing on beaches, the Culture Ministry official said.

That might take the form of spreading out rental deckchairs and sun umbrellas several metres apart, a drastic change from the usual scenes on Italian beaches every summer when space can be so tight it's hard to put a towel down.

One Italian company has proposed a more radical solution: plexiglass barriers to separate beachgoers.

Nuova Neon Group 2, a plastics manufacturer in Emilia Romagna, has designed an aluminium-and-plastic cubicle big enough for two deckchairs that would give each group of holidaymakers around 20 square metres of space to themselves.

“We've already received several inquiries from beach operators and restaurants,” owner Claudio Ferrari told La Repubblica, adding that plastic table dividers could also make their way into cafes and restaurants once they're eventually allowed to reopen.

While that solution might seem far-fetched, Italy's beach operators association Federbalneari says the precautions the industry is contemplating include introducing an obligatory deckchair reservation system to reduce crowding, and allocating time slots for different age groups to help protect people at higher risk from infection.

Other safety measures could include closing all beachside playgrounds, installing extra hand-washing facilities and even disinfecting sand, the association's vice-president Mauro Della Valle told Il Fatto Quotidiano.

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


A police officer instructs a dog walker to leave the beach at Ostia, near Rome. Photo: Alberto Pizzoli/AFP

One change that seems certain is that beaches will be more Italian this summer: Italy is expected to receive an estimated 25 million fewer visitors from overseas between July and September 2020.

Meanwhile with many other countries under similar lockdowns, Italian residents are likely to cancel their own trips abroad.

Staying local might be Italians' safest – or only – option for a summer holiday this year. According to a survey done for Italian tourism association Confturismo, seven out of every ten Italians think the crisis will be over in two or three months – and nearly half say they would then be ready to vacation somewhere in Italy.

“We can start thinking about planning our holidays with caution, since there won't be a vaccine but hopefully we'll have a treatment and the virus will be manageable,” commented Italy's undersecretary for health, Sandra Zampa.

“Thinking about being stuck at home in a sweltering city in July and August is enough to worry anyone.”

While Italian beaches remain strictly policed under current quarantine rules, some regions including Liguria, Emilia Romagna and Abruzzo have given operators permission to carry out maintenance on their beach facilities to have them ready for eventual reopening in the coming months.

As Della Valle of the beach operators association says: “I don't think you can keep Italians away from the beach in July.”

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STRIKES

Calendar: The transport strikes to expect in Italy this February

Travellers are once again set to face serious disruption as Italy will experience a new round of transport strikes in February. Here's what you can expect in the coming weeks.

Calendar: The transport strikes to expect in Italy this February

Travel to, from and across Italy was disrupted by dozens of strikes in January

And, while many travellers might have hoped for a change in the trend, strikes are set to continue into February as Italian unions have already announced a further round of demonstrations affecting rail and public transport services as well as airline travel.

Here’s an overview of February’s main strike actions, including a national public transport strike on Friday, February 17th and another nationwide walkout from airport ground staff on Tuesday, February 28th.

Public transport

February 17th: Public transport staff will take part in a national 24-hour strike on Friday, February 17th. 

The strike was called in late January by Italian union USB (Unione Sindacale di Base) to protest against precarious work and “wild privatisation” attempts on the part of the Italian state.

READ ALSO: Should you travel in Italy when there’s a strike on?

There currently aren’t any details as to what percentage of workers will take part in the action. As such, the amount of disruption travellers should expect on the day cannot be estimated yet. 

Air travel

February 12th: Air traffic control staff at Perugia’s San Francesco d’Assisi airport will take part in a 24-hour strike action on Sunday, February 12th. 

It isn’t yet clear how the walkout in question will affect air travel to and from the airport on the day.

Travellers at an Italian airport

A national strike from ground service staff may cause delays and queues at many Italian airports on Tuesday, February 28th. Photo by Andreas SOLARO / AFP

February 28th: Baggage handlers and other airport ground service staff will take part in a national 24-hour strike on Tuesday, February 28th. 

It isn’t yet clear how the strike will affect air travel during the day, though a similar demonstration caused significant delays and queues at some Italian airports in late January.

ENAV air traffic operators based in Calabria are also expected to strike on February 28th, with the walkout set to start at 1pm and end at 5pm.

Rail

February 5th-6th: Calabria-based Trenitalia staff will strike from 9pm on Sunday, February 5th to 9pm the following day. 

A list of guaranteed services in the region is available here.

February 9th: Staff from Lombardy’s Trenord will take part in a 22-hour strike – from 2am to 11.50pm – on Thursday, February 9th.

Empty train platform in Codogno, Lombardy

Staff from Lombardy’s regional railway operator Trenord will strike for 22 hours on Thursday, February 9th. Photo by Miguel MEDINA / AFP

It’s currently unclear whether Trenord will operate minimum services on the day. Any information regarding the strike will be released on the following website page

February 12th-13th: Trenitalia staff in Emilia-Romagna will strike from 3.30am on Sunday, February 12th to 2.30am on Monday, February 13th.

A list of guaranteed services in the region is available here.

February 19th: Veneto-based Trenitalia staff will strike from 9am to 5pm on Sunday, February 19th. 

Guaranteed services are available here.

On the same day, there will be no service between Milan’s Milano Centrale station and Paris’s Gare de Lyon due to a strike from staff at France’s national railway company SNCF.

READ ALSO: Trains and planes: Italy’s new international travel routes in 2023

February 20th: Trenitalia personnel in Lombardy are expected to strike from 9am to 5pm on Monday, February 20th. 

Guaranteed services haven’t been made available yet. 

You can keep up to date with the latest strike news from Italy HERE.

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