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‘We really feel safe in this hotel’: German tourists help revive pandemic-hit Italian coast

Italy lifts its lockdown and presto! The forlorn sunbeds of a hotel on the Venetian coast fill up once more with German and Austrian tourists.

'We really feel safe in this hotel': German tourists help revive pandemic-hit Italian coast
Archive photo from May 12th 2020 shows a woman at the seafront in Jesolo, near Venice, northeastern Italy, during the country's lockdown. Photo: AFP

Much of Italy is still waiting for visitors to return after the government imposed an economically crippling shutdown to halt the coronavirus pandemic, which has killed over 34,000 people, mostly in the country's north.

But at the Cavalieri Palace in the resort town of Jesolo on Venice's Adriatic coast, families play frisbee on the sand, sunbathe on deck chairs or order lunch at the hotel's poolside bar.

The four-star hotel is among the first to open its doors to international tourists.

“As soon as the borders opened on June 3rd, we had the pleasant surprise of finding four to five German families and an Austrian one having breakfast in our restaurant,” the hotel's owner Antonio Vigolo said with a smile.

It comes despite there still being a warning against non-essential travel in Germany. That warning is to be lifted for EU countries on Monday June 15th, however it will remain in place for countries outside the EU.

READ ALSO: What are the rules for travelling abroad from Germany this summer?

No fights over sunbeds

In Venice, guests need not fight over sunbeds, for most of the umbrellas and tables along the beach still lie empty. But it is a welcome start for the Jesolo hotel, which like all tourist establishments has suffered greatly from the coronavirus shutdown.

“I should have left the hotel closed, because it will be very difficult this year to break even. But I listened to my hotelier's heart and, along with my staff, said 'let's open',” Vigolo said.

German tourist Simone Freitag, her sunglasses perched on her head as she looked out to sea, said she and her husband were not worried about the virus,  which experts warn may still be in circulation.

“We really feel safe in this hotel. They are doing a very good job. Everybody follows the rules,” she said.

Austrian guest Mathias Cardin, enjoying an espresso coffee on the hotel terrace with his partner, said the contagion numbers in the region were “getting better and better day by day”.

While the Veneto region had Italy's first coronavirus death, it moved much more quickly than Lombardy in the northwest to identify and isolate those carrying the virus. On Wednesday it reported only three new cases, compared with 99 in Lombardy.

“I think that there are more dangerous places now than Veneto and Jesolo!” Cardin said.

A break in Venice was a great way to “get back to having a quite normal life”, he said.

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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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