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HEALTH

Will a staycation in Italy be possible this summer, and what would it look like?

Travel in Italy this year will look very different. With no word yet from Italian authorities on when international travel may be possible, the country's residents are hoping to at least be allowed a staycation.

Will a staycation in Italy be possible this summer, and what would it look like?
A beach manager in Cesenatico, on the Adriatic coast, positions sunbeds at a safe distance on May 11th. Photo: Vincezo Pinto/AFP

We still don't know what kind of travel will be possible this summer, or when restrictions on movement will be lifted both in Italy and overseas.

Non-essential travel between regions remains heavily restricted due to rules aimed at preventing the spread of the virus from the worst-ht regions. Italian residents are not even allowed to cross regional borders to visit family.

READ ALSO: The rules on travel around Italy during lockdown phase two

While you are currently allowed to travel to leave Italy, entering the country is only possible for emergency or repatriation reasons.

Italy currently has a 14-day quarantine in place for anyone entering the country, and individual regions, such as Puglia and Molise, also enforce their own quarantine rules on anyone arriving from outside the region.

Considering this, it's hard to imagine even travelling to other parts of the country on holiday right now, let alone abroad.

Italy's government has remained tight-lipped on the topic of travel restrictions this summer, though the culture and tourism minister, Dario Franceschini, has warned Italians that they'l be taking holidays within the country this year.

 
“We are making a strong investment in domestic tourism, because this will be a summer of holidays in Italy,” Franchescini said at the end of April.
 

A beach in Cesenatico, on the Adriatic coast, on May 11th. Photo: Vincezo Pinto/AFP

Under current rules no travel is allowed, though it's unclear whether people will be able to travel freely around the country again by summer.

With the coronavirus crisis affecting some regions far worse than others, Italy's regional governments are free to adapt the national rules to suit their own situations – and no agreement on travel between regions has yet been reached.

READ ALSO:

Many people living in Italy are already planning to take their holidays on their own doorsteps this summer, as planning anything more exotic is simply impossible for now.

In fact many residents will no doubt relish the once-in-a-lifetime chance to enjoy Italy's beaches and sights without the crowds.

But with so many tough restrictions still in place, what might travel actually look like?

Flights

Flights remain fairly difficult to come by in Italy. Airports are open, and some domestic and even a few international routes continue to operate, mainly with Alitalia. These are used mainly for repatriations and transporting medical supplies.

Some airlines reopened their reservations for international flights as Italy moved into phase two, although while pasengers may be able to book flights, there's no guarantee they'll actually be able to travel.

Of course, even on domestic flights air travel is going to look much different from what we’re used to.

Face masks are mandatory, both on the ground and on board the aircraft.

At airports, thermal scanners are in place and signs and announcements warn people stay at least one metre apart.

Trains

As for train travel, Italian rail operator Trenitalia has now restored some of its high-speed Frecce services, most of which has been suspended as travel stopped due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Passengers planning to travel on Le Frecce or intercity services will need to book in advance. Passengers' names and contact details will be required, so they can be notified in case they've shared a journey with someone who later tested positive for the virus.

Trains will run at no more than 50 percent of capacity and face masks are mandatory for travellers.

More regional trains are also now operating, with rules varying by city or region, but in general capacity will be greatly reduced and passengers will be reminded of the restrictions by signs and messages played over loudspeaker.

Hotels

Some hotels in Italy are set to reopen this month – subject to regional and local rules.

Here are the safety precautions suggested by Italian hotel association Federalberghi. They're still awaitng approval by the government, but may give some idea of what to expect.

  • Instead of handing over your ID at check-in, guests could be asked to send a copy of their documents electronically in advance.
  • Guests will be encouraged to keep hold of their room keys for their entire stay rather than handing them back to reception when leaving the hotel (as is often expected in Italy)
  • Rooms will be cleaned daily with extra precuations in place, and any soft furnishings that can't be easily disinfected (such as rugs and cushions) may have to be removed.
  • At mealtimes hotel restaurants will need to follow similar rules to those in restaurants, and breakfast buffets will no longer be possible. Hotels may encourage room service or allow “take away” meals to be eaten in the grounds.
  • Gloves and masks will be a requirement for staff, and likely for customers when in public areas.

Restaurants

The government is in the middle of gradually loosening rules under phase two of the strict lockdown. Shops, bars, restaurants and more will be allowed to open to the public from May 18th. 

Restaurants are currently allowed to open for takeaway and delivery service only.

CALENDAR: What will Italy reopen first under new lockdown rules?

Here are some of the rules expected to be enforced when restaurants reopen:

 
  • Advance reservations will be required to prevent crowds.
  •  
  • Masks may need to be worn at the cash register or when in line, and when you go to the bathroom
  •  
  • Customers will have to maintain enough distance to avoid transmitting infections – though it's not clear exactly what that distance is, or how this will be enforced.
 
See more details on visiting restaurants in Italy after reopening in a seperate article here.

Beaches

Summer in Italy without the beach is unthinkable for most Italians. Resort and lido operators have been frantically trying to come up with ways to ensure sunbathers can maintain social distancing.

“We'll go to the seaside this summer,” undersecretary for culture Lorenza Bonaccorsi said back in April. “We're working to make that possible.”

MAP: These are the cleanest and greenest beaches in Italy

 
Among the options being considered are socially-distanced 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.
 
Obligatory deckchair reservation systems may be introduced to reduce crowding, and allocating time slots for different age groups to help protect people at higher risk from infection.
 
Some beaches are even considering installing plexiglass barriers to keep tourists apart.
 
Other safety measures could include closing all beachside playgrounds, installing extra hand-washing facilities and even disinfecting sand.
 

Tourist attractions

Museums and exhibitions can also reopen from May 18th, including major attractions such at the Vatican Museums.

A limited number of visitors may be allowed in at a time, and advance reservations and masks are likely to be required for visitors.

It's not yet known when cinemas, theatres and other performance venues may reopen.

You can check the latest updates on rules and reopenings from the Italian tourism and culture ministry here, and on the Italian national tourism council's website.

 

 

 

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COVID-19 RULES

Is Italy’s government planning to scrap all Covid measures?

The new Italian government has announced the end of some remaining Covid health measures. Here's a look at what will - and won't - change.

Is Italy’s government planning to scrap all Covid measures?

Few Covid-related restrictions remain in Italy today, six months after the nationwide ‘state of emergency’ ended.

The previous government had kept only a handful of precautionary measures in place – which the new government, led by Giorgia Meloni, must now decide whether or not to keep.

The cabinet is holding a meeting on Monday and will issue a decree this week detailing any changes to the health measures.

Many expect the government to scrap all measures entirely by the end of the year, after Meloni and her party criticised the way Mario Draghi’s administration handled the pandemic throughout its tenure. 

Meloni clearly stated in her first address to parliament last Tuesday that “we will not replicate the model of the previous government” when it comes to managing Covid.

READ ALSO: Five key points from Meloni’s first speech as new Italian PM

While she acknowledged that Italy could be hit by another Covid wave, or another pandemic, she did not say how her government would deal with it.

Meanwhile, new health minister Orazio Schillaci issued a statement on Friday confirming the end of several existing measures, saying he “considers it appropriate to initiate a progressive return to normality in activities and behaviour”.

Workplace ban for unvaccinated medical staff

Schillaci confirmed that the ministry will allow doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals to return to work after being suspended because they refuse to get vaccinated against Covid-19.

Those who refuse vaccination will be “reintegrated” into the workforce before the rule expires at the end of this year, as part of what the minister called a “gradual return to normality”.

They will be allowed to return “in light of the worrying shortage of medical and health personnel” and “considering the trend of Covid infections”, the statement said.

Fines issued to healthcare staff aged over 50 who refused vaccination would also be cancelled, it added.

There were some 1,579 doctors and dentists refusing vaccination at the end of October, representing 0.3 percent of all those registered with Italy’s National Federation of the Orders of Physicians, Surgeons and Dentists (Fnomceo) 

Daily Covid data reports

Schillaci also confirmed in the statement that the health ministry will no longer release daily updates on Covid-19 contagion rates, hospital cases and deaths, saying this would be replaced by a weekly update.

It said it would however make the data available at any time to relevant authorities.

Mask requirement in hospitals to stay?

The requirement to wear face masks in hospitals, care homes and other healthcare facilities expires on Monday, October 31st.

At a meeting on the same day the government is expected to decide whether to extend the measure.

READ ALSO: What can we expect from Italy’s new government?

While the government had looked at scrapping the requirement, it reportedly changed stance at the last minute on Monday after facing heavy criticism from health experts.

Media reports published while the meeting was in progress on Monday said government sources had indicated the measure would in fact be extended.

Confirmation is expected to come later on Monday.

Italy’s face mask rules in care homes and healthcare facilities are up for renewal. Photo by Thierry ZOCCOLAN / AFP

‘Green pass’ health certificate

There is no indication that the new government plans to bring back any requirements to show a ‘green pass’: the digital certificate proving vaccination against or recent recovery from Covid, or a negative test result.

The pass is currently only required for entry to healthcare facilities and care homes, and this is expected to remain the case.

‘Dismantling the measures’

Some of the confirmed changes were strongly criticised by Italy’s most prominent healthcare experts.

Head of the Gimbe association for evidence-based medicine, Nino Cartabellotta, said the focus on cancelling fines for unvaccinated healthcare workers was “irrelevant from a health point of view .. but unscientific and highly diseducative”.

He told news agency Ansa it was “absolutely legitimate” for a new government to discontinue the previous administration’s measures, but that this “must also be used to improve everything that the previous government was unable to do”.

The government should prioritise “more analytical collection of data on hospitalised patients, investments in ventilation systems for enclosed rooms … accelerating coverage with vaccine boosters,” he said.

However, the plan at the moment appeared to be “a mere dismantling of the measures in place,” he said, “in the illusory attempt to consign the pandemic to oblivion, ignoring the recommendations of the international public health authorities”.

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