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Sicily plans to subsidise holidays after lockdown

Sicily’s regional government has announced plans to subsidise holiday accommodation on the island - once travel to and within Italy is possible again. Here are the details we have so far.

Sicily plans to subsidise holidays after lockdown
A busy beach on the island of Lampedusa, Sicily, in September 2018. File photo: AFP

The island of Sicily is planning to subsidise holidays for both domestic and international visitors in an effort to revive tourism after the coronavirus pandemic, the island's regional authorites have confirmed.

Their current plans include subsidised hotel stays – offering one night of a three-night trip for free – as well as vouchers for visits to museums and other cultural attractions on the island.

The regional government says it has set aside €75 million to be give out to tourists via “vouchers and cards”.

“€75 million has been allocated for the advance purchase by the Region of vouchers and cards to be distributed, for promotional purposes, to tourists, once the health emergency has ceased,” stated the Sicilian local authority's announcement on May 3rd of its 1.5-billion-euro Stability Bill and the latest regional budget.

“We'll buy services such as hotel nights from operators, and we'll give them to tourists, Sicilians or not, who come to us,” Sicily's tourist board director Manlio Messina told news show Mattino Cinque.

“If you stay at least three nights,the region will pay for one (of them), he explained.

Those who stay for six nights will have two of them paid for by local authorities, he added.

Some media reports have stated that the funding would also go towards paying for flights to and from the island, but this has not been officially confirmed.

Sicily's museums and heritage sites currently stand empty under lockdown. Photo: AFP

“Tourism is the sector that suffered the damage first, and will start up again last, which is why we decided to support it, explained Messina.

Italy's tourism sector has suffered huge financial losses, with industry representatives reporting “the worst crisis in recent history” even before the national lockdown came was announced on March 9th.

Sicily's economy relies heavily on tourism, and the sector's rise is often credited with helping ease the grip of organised crime groups on cities like Palermo. But with poverty now rising, particularly in southern Italy, as incomes are lost to the shutdown, there are fears this progress could be undone without government intervention.

It's not yet known when or exactly how the vouchers will be made available, but more details are expected to be published on the Sicilian tourist board's website once travel is possible.

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The Italian government has not released any further details on when current strict travel restrictions to and within the country may be lifted.

While Italy's tourism minister Dario Franceschini has denied claims that Italy would be closed to holidaymakers until 2021, he has also suggested that international travel may not resume by this summer.

Franceschini told Italian newspaper Il Messaggero the ministry was “making a strong investment in domestic tourism, because this will be a summer of holidays in Italy.”

Italy relaxed some rules as it entered phase two of its lockdown on Monday. However, tight restrictions on travel remain in place.

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COVID-19 RULES

Italy allows suspended anti-vax doctors to return to work

Italian heathcare staff suspended over their refusal to be vaccinated against Covid-19 can now return to work, Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni confirmed on Monday.

Italy allows suspended anti-vax doctors to return to work

Italy become the first country in Europe to make it obligatory for healthcare workers to be vaccinated, ruling in 2021 that they must have the jab or be transferred to other roles or suspended without pay.

That obligation had been set to expire in December, but was brought forward to Tuesday due to “a shortage of medical and health personnel”, Health Minister Orazio Schillaci said.

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

Italy was the first European country to be hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic in early 2020, and has since registered nearly 180,000 deaths.

Schillaci first announced the plan to scrap the rule on Friday in a statement saying data showed the virus’ impact on hospitals  “is now limited”.

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”.

Meloni said the move, which has been criticised by the centre-left as a win for anti-vax campaigners, would mean some 4,000 healthcare workers can return to work.

This includes some 1,579 doctors and dentists refusing vaccination, according to records 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) 

Meloni’s post-fascist Brothers of Italy party railed against the way Mario Draghi’s government handled the pandemic, when it was the main opposition party, and she promised to use her first cabinet meetings to mark a clear break in policies with her predecessor.

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