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HEALTH

Milan announces major expansion of cycle paths after lockdown

Milan hopes to emerge from lockdown with cleaner and greener transport options in place, as the city announced an expansion of bike and pedestrian paths to protect commuters from infection risk and stop a spike in car use as lockdown is eased.

Milan announces major expansion of cycle paths after lockdown
Cyclists working for a food delivery company ride through the empty square in front of Milan's Duomo. Photo: AFP

Local authorities announced on Tuesday that 35 kilometres (22 miles) of city streets will be made more accessible to pedestrians and cyclists in the coming months, as it begins a major project to transform roads in the city centre.

The ambitious Strade Aperte (Open Streets) plan aims to reallocate street space from cars to pedestrians and cyclists, making it safer and easier for people to leave their vehicles at home once lockdown is lifted.

READ ALSO: Italian PM set to unveil lockdown 'phase two' plans this week

It will include temporary cycle lanes, new, widened pavements, pedestrian and cyclist priority streets, and reduced speed limits in the city centre, officials said.

Under the planned “phase two” of Italy's lockdown, businesses are expected to start gradually reopening from May onwards.

But there are concerns about the virus being transmitted in crowds on public transport as people get back to work, particularly in compact and densely-populated Milan.

Milan transport authorities say metro services in the city will run at 30 percent capacity in order to allow social distancing.

This means that, instead of transporting the usual 1.4 million passengers per day, the Milan metro will only be able to carry 400 thousand people daily.

The fear is that this could result in a spike in car traffic.

A near-empty metro carriage in Milan on April 9th. Photo: AFP

“We cannot think of this meaning a million more cars on the road,” Milan transport councillor Marco Granelli told Radio Lombardy on Tuesday.

“To avoid this, we will have to strengthen two-wheeled transport. This is why we're putting in place an extraordinary plan to create new cycle paths,” he said.

Milan city hall is “preparing documents and plans to add about 35 kilomtres of new cycle routes to the little more than 200 already existing,” he said.

Work on the project is expected to begin as soon as May on the usually busy Corso Buenos Aires, and will continue over the summer, he explained.

it is hoped that Milan's scheme will be used as a roadmap for other cities in Italy, and around the world.

The economic capital of Italy, Milan is also one of the most heavily polluted parts of the country. Huge swathes of northern Italy have long suffered serious problems with air pollution.

 
In Italy, cars remain by far the most-used means of transport. 65.3 percent of all journeys are made by car, according to environmental group Legambiante, with the emissions from some 38 million cars choking Italy's towns and cities before the nationwide lockdown began.
 
Italy has repeatedly been reprimanded by the European Union for regularly exceeding the bloc's recommended limits on air pollution.
 
Many towns and cities struggle wth congestion and pollution as public transport provision and cycle lanes remain inadequate.

READ ALSO: 

Air pollution has long been a serious concern among Milan's residents, and international studies are now trying to ascertain whether there's a link between air pollution and high Covid-19 mortality rates seen around Milan.

Lombardy, the region of which Milan is the capital, is the part of Italy by far most seriously affected by the coronavirus outbreak.

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TRAVEL NEWS

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.”

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