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Face masks, forms and fewer bags: Italy’s new rules on flying

Pack an extra face mask and cut back on hand luggage: the Italian government has introduced new coronavirus precautions for anyone taking a flight in Italy.

Face masks, forms and fewer bags: Italy's new rules on flying
Passengers queuing at Rome's Fiumicino airport after Italy dropped its ban on international travel. Photo: Filippo Monteforte/AFP

As part of its latest Covid-19 decree, signed on June 11th, Italy's government relaxed the rules on how far apart passengers have to sit – but introduced new restrictions on cabin baggage and set a time limit on how long travellers can wear the same face mask.

READ ALSO: 'How I managed to travel from the US to Italy during lockdown'

The new rules came into force on June 15th, the same day that most other members of the European Union dropped their restrictions on travel to and from Italy. Italy has allowed travel within the EU, Schengen Area and UK since June 3rd.

The precautions apply to everyone flying to or from an Italian airport, regardless of where you're from or where you live, and will remain in place until further notice.

Here are the main rules you need to know about.

Social distancing is no longer compulsory on most planes

Italy has dropped the requirement for airlines to seat passengers at least a metre apart – which effectively halved the number of people who could board each flight – so long as the plane is equipped with a HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Air) filter. 

According to the International Air Transport Association, HEPA filters capture more than 99 percent of airborne microbes and keep fresh air flowing continuously, resulting in all the air in the cabin being replaced entirely every two to three minutes. Almost all large commercial aircraft operating in Italy and throughout Europe use them.

READ ALSO: These are the airlines restarting flights to Italy from June


Photo: Andreas Solaro/AFP

The change means that flights can once more depart full and passengers are no longer guaranteed empty seats around them.

Social distancing is still required in airports and on shuttle buses carrying passengers to and from the aircraft.

Face masks have to be changed every four hours

Masks remain compulsory for the duration of your journey, and on longer-haul flights they must now be replaced every four hours. Passengers are advised to bring their own replacements.

You must keep your mask on throughout the airport, too. 

Limited hand luggage

Airlines are instructed not to allow passengers to bring large cabin bags onboard in order to minimise how much passengers move around accessing overhead lockers. 

The government's decree doesn't specify maximum dimensions, leaving it up to airlines to set their own limits. 

Italy's national airline Alitalia says its passengers are allowed only one piece of hand luggage total, instead of the bag plus personal item that used to be permitted. The airline's usual size and weight limits apply.

According to La Repubblica, on flights leaving from Rome's Fiumicino airport on June 15th Alitalia was allowing only the first 50 passengers to take their hand luggage onboard, placing everyone else's bags in the hold. Meanwhile passengers who had brought an extra handbag or briefcase were obliged to check one of their bags at their own cost.

You have to sign a form

Passengers must now fill out an 'autodichiarazione' (self-certification form) before each flight, declaring that they do not have Covid-19 or any of its main symptoms (fever, coughing, difficulty breathing, sore throat, headache, fatigue, loss of taste or smell, diarrhoea).

READ ALSO:

You must also state that you have not had close contact with anyone who has Covid-19 in the past 14 days, nor with anyone who became ill in the 48 hours before their symptoms appeared.

People without a completed form will be denied boarding. Contact your airline for a copy (Alitalia's version is here), which you should print out and fill in before setting off.By signing the form you agree to inform the local health authorities if you develop symptoms within eight days of flying. You must also give your contact details so that the airline can reach you for at least 14 days after your flight.

Allow extra time for boarding and disembarking

Getting on and off the plane will almost certainly take longer than usual now that airlines have to enforce social distancing before and after take-off. 

Shuttle buses are now required to operate half empty, while airlines must regulate the number of people boarding and disembarking at once to avoid crowding. 

You may also be subject to temperature checks before or after flying, with anyone found to have a fever of 37.5 degrees C or higher at risk of being forbidden to continue their journey.

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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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