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Italy to allow international travel from early June

Italy will reopen to tourists from early June and scrap a 14-day mandatory quarantine period, the government said on Saturday, as it quickened the exit from the coronavirus lockdown.

Italy to allow international travel from early June
The seafront of Cesenatico on the Adriatic coast, northeastern Italy, shows a beach manager and a partner demonstrating the positioning of sunbeds and sunshades on a private beach as part of safety pr

Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte also said on Saturday that gyms and cinemas would soon be able to welcome the public again, as the government seeks to restart economic activity while treading cautiously amid the lingering, though waning, coronavirus.

“We're facing a calculated risk in the knowledge that the contagion curve may rise again,” Conte said during a televised address.

“We have to accept it otherwise we will never be able to start up again.”

Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte enforced the nationwide shutdown in early March to counter a pandemic that has so far killed nearly 32,000 people in Italy.

READ ALSO: What you need to know about Italy's 'Relaunch Decree'

The shutdown halted all holiday-making in a country heavily dependent on the tourism industry.

Although Italy never formally closed its borders and has allowed people to cross back and forth for work or health reasons, it banned movement for tourism and imposed a two-week isolation period for new arrivals.

In March, the European Union banned foreign nationals from entering its Schengen zone, an open border zone comprising 22 of 27 member states, with exceptions for medical workers and essential travel.

The external borders of the EU remain closed to non-essential travel until June 15th.

On Wednesday, the EU set out plans for a phased restart of summer travel, urging member states to reopen its internal borders, while recommending that external borders remain shut for most travel until at least the middle of June.

In a press release, Italy's government did not explicitly state which foreign nationals would be allowed to enter, but said its new measures respected the “legal order of the European Union”.

Beginning on June 3rd, visitors within the Schengen zone will be allowed to enter Italy with no obligation to self-isolate. Italians will also be able to move between regions, though local authorities can limit travel if infections spike.

Movements to and from abroad can be limited by regional decree “in relation to specific states and territories, in accordance with the principles of adequacy and proportionality to the epidemiological risk”, the government said.

Meanwhile restrictions on travel within the same region will be dropped from Monday, May 18th, the draft states.

That means that, as expected, you will no longer need an 'autocertificazione' form to go outside after this weekend.

A view taken on May 12, 2020 shows a woman walking along the port of Cesenatico on the Adriatic coast, northeastern Italy, during the country's lockdown aimed at curbing the spread of the COVID-19 infection, caused by the novel coronavirus.
Vincenzo PINTO / AFP

And while currently you can only leave your own town for urgent or essential reasons, from Monday you'll be able to visit friends, stay at your second home, go to the beach or take a holiday within your own region – unless the regional authorities there decide otherwise.

The latest decree is welcome news for Italy's agricultural sector, which relies on roughly 350,000 seasonal workers from abroad.

Farming lobby group Coldiretti said farms were already preparing to organise some 150,000 workers from places including Romania, Poland and Bulgaria.

The peak of Italy's contagion passed at the end of March but with experts warning a second wave cannot be ruled out, Conte had been reluctant to lift the lockdown quickly.

He faced pressure from Italy's regional governments, with some already allowing businesses to reopen before the restrictions were lifted.

READ ALSO: Why some Italian regions have reopened sooner than others

Restaurants, bars and hairdressers are being allowed to reopen on Monday, two weeks earlier than initially planned.

Shops will also open and Italians will finally be able to see friends, as long as they live within their same region.

Church services will begin again but people will have to follow social distancing rules and holy water fonts will be empty. Mosques will also reopen. Gatherings of large groups are still banned.

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COVID-19

Covid-19: Are Italian live events at risk of being postponed?

As the infection rate rises sharply across the country, Italian virologists are calling for concerts and festivals to be rescheduled.

Covid-19: Are Italian live events at risk of being postponed?

Italy has seen a large increase in the number of Covid-19 cases in recent days, so much so that a number of virologists across the country are now urging the government to postpone major live events in a bid to curb infections. 

According to a new report by Italy’s independent health watchdog, the Gimbe Foundation, 595,349 new cases were recorded in the week from June 29th to July 5th; a worrying 55 percent increase on the previous week. 

In the same time span, the country also registered a 32.8 percent rise in the number of hospitalised patients, which went from 6,035 to 8,003.  

The latest Covid wave, which is being driven by the highly contagious Omicron 5 variant, is a “real cause for concern”, especially in terms of a “potential patient overload”, said Nino Cartabellotta, president of the Gimbe Foundation. 

As Italian cities prepare to host a packed calendar of concerts and festivals this summer, health experts are questioning whether such events should actually take place given the high risk of transmission associated with mass gatherings.

READ ALSO: What tourists in Italy need to know if they get Covid-19

“Rescheduling these types of events would be the best thing to do right now,” said Massimo Ciccozzi, Director of Epidemiology at Campus Bio-Medico University of Rome. 

The summer wave is expected to peak in mid-July but, Ciccozzi warns, the upcoming live events might “delay [the peak] until the end of July or even beyond” and extend the infection curve.

Antonello Maruotti, Professor of Statistics at LUMSA University of Rome, recently shared Ciccozzi’s concerns, saying that live events as big as Maneskin’s scheduled Rome concert are “definitely not a good idea”. 

The Italian rock band are slated to perform at the Circus Maximus on Saturday, July 9th but the expected turnout – over 70,000 fans are set to attend the event – has raised objections from an array of Italian doctors, with some warning that the concert might cause as many as 20,000 new cases.

If it were to materialise, the prospected scenario would significantly aggravate Lazio’s present medical predicament as there are currently over 186,000 Covid cases in the region (nearly 800 patients are receiving treatment in local hospitals). 

Italian rock band Maneskin performing in Turin

Italian rock band Maneskin are expected to perform at the Circus Maximus in Rome on Saturday, July 9th. Photo by Marco BERTORELLO / AFP

But, despite pleas to postpone the event, it is likely that Maneskin’s concert will take place as scheduled.

Alessandro Onorato, Rome’s Tourism Councillor, said that rescheduling is “out of question” and that “all recommendations from the local medical authorities will be adopted” with the help of the event’s organisers and staff on the ground.

At the time of writing, there is also no indication that the Italian government will consider postponing other major live events scheduled to take place in the coming weeks, though the situation is evolving rapidly and a U-turn on previous dispositions can’t be ruled out.

READ ALSO: At a glance: What are the Covid-19 rules in Italy now?

On this note, it is worth mentioning that Italy has now scrapped all of its former Covid measures except the requirement to wear FFP2 face masks on public transport (though not on planes) and in healthcare settings.

The use of face coverings is, however, still recommended in all crowded areas, including outdoors – exactly the point that leading Italian doctors are stressing in the hope that live events will not lead to large-scale infection.

Antonio Magi, President of Rome’s OMCEO (College of Doctors, Surgeons and Dentists), said: “Our advice is to wear FFP2 masks […] in high-risk situations.”

“I hope that young people will heed our recommendations and think about the health risks that their parents or grandparents might be exposed to after the event [they attend].”

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