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Thanks for supporting The Local during lockdown – here’s what we’re doing for readers

The Local Italy's editor looks back on nearly six months of reporting on the coronavirus crisis – and asks what members would like to see us write more about in future.

Thanks for supporting The Local during lockdown - here's what we're doing for readers
People stand at their windows during lockdown in Italy, the first country to suffer an outbreak outside of China.. Photo: Tiziana Fabi/AFP

On the morning of Friday, February 21st, we learned that three cases of coronavirus had been confirmed in northern Italy. I remember the sense of dread I felt as we reported a few hours later that the number had doubled.

By the next day the first localised lockdowns had begun, and Italy had reported its first fatality – the first European known to have died from the disease, which we weren’t yet calling Covid-19. Within days there were hundreds of cases.
I was getting countless calls and messages from worried friends and family abroad asking about the situation in Italy, many asking me to fact-check things they'd heard on the international news  At that moment, what people with connections to Italy, and English-speakers living in the country, told me they needed was simply clear, verified information written in a straightforward way. We were determined that The Local’s reporting would provide it.
Our aim has always been to explain the situation here and to help you keep track of the latest rules, decrees, and numbers.
Throughout the crisis, we've also brought readers details of the latest official updates and explained what they meant, corrected the inaccuracies reported in some international media, and interviewed some of Italy's most respected scientific experts.
When we made the decision early on to remove the paywall from essential coverage of the crisis, we asked paying members if they approved – you overwhelmingly agreed that it was the right thing to do.
Another priority for us has been telling your stories and getting answers to your questions – partiicularly after Italy moved out of the emergency phase, and we all tried to adjust to life under various restrictions.
We recently published a series of in-depth articles related to travel to Italy from the US, as the ongoing restrictions are of course a major issue for so many of our readers who live internationally.
All of these articles were informed by your questions, and featured the real-life experiences of our readers. Here are some examples:
We've had a very positive response to these articles, with one member in the Campania region writing in to say: “The Local is the only news source providing practical and detailed information on travel to Italy. Every other source writes in general terms and without firsthand knowledge.”
We've also been looking in detail at what's being done to help people in Italy through the crisis.
We received a grant from the Solutions Journalism Network to take an in-depth look at the responses to different parts of the coronavirus crisis in Italy, and across Europe: what's worked, what hasn't, and why, through a series of articles.
Here are some of those pieces:
While reporting on it, we’ve been living through this pandemic just like readers. Reporting on something you’re living through yourself – particularly while shut in your apartment for months – is quite intense, so we really appreciated every kind and encouraging word from our members.
It was near-impossible to disconnect from work at the peak of the crisis. We wanted to follow what was happening at all times – and when I say we worked around the clock, I’m not exaggerating. 
It didn’t help that the Italian Prime Minister developed an unfortunate habit of giving important speeches late in the evening. I remember sitting up until after 2am one night waiting for him to appear, and translating what he was saying into English for our news report.  I know many of my colleagues across Europe were working at all hours, too.
But like everyone else, we’ve also been worried about the future of our jobs and business. So many media companies have had to lay off staff. Here at The Local, our advertising revenues plummeted due to the crisis.
We were rescued by the record number of readers who signed up as paying members. There are now 27,000 of you – and if we reach 40,000, The Local will become sustainable on membership alone.
We really couldn’t write these articles without support from our members. Thank you.
We hope you'll stick with us. In return, we'll keep on working hard to bring you the facts and explain life in Italy, and around Europe. The Local is also reinvesting in increasing our coverage and improving our sites.

The Local's staff from our nine European sites flew to Stockholm for a meetup in January, just weeks before the pandemic hit. Photo: Tim Marringa/The Local
We also hope that members will keep telling us what they want and need to know in future, whether that’s pandemic-related or another essential issue, from understanding the language and culture to bureaucracy, finances and Brexit.
We’ve received more emails than ever from readers in the past few months, full of bright ideas and thoughtful comments. We haven’t always been able to reply, simply because of the number of messages we’ve been getting, but we do read and appreciate them all.
Now I’m asking our members to send me another email, with any more thoughts and suggestions you have for our coverage of Italy in future. If you have a story idea that should be added to our list, or if you have any burning questions we might be able to answer, please email them to me here.
Grazie mille,
Clare Speak
Editor, The Local Italy


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Covid face mask rule on flights in Europe set to be eased

The mandatory EU-wide mask requirement for air travel is set to be dropped from Monday, May 16th, but airlines may still require passengers to wear masks on some or all flights

Covid face mask rule on flights in Europe set to be eased

Europe-wide facemask rules on flights are set to be ditched as early as next week in light of new recommendations from health and air safety experts.

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) dropped recommendations for mandatory mask-wearing in airports and during flights in updated Covid-19 safety measures for travel issued on Wednesday, May 11th.

The new rules are expected to be rolled out from Monday, May 16th, but airlines may still continue to require the wearing of masks on some or all of flights. And the updated health safety measures still say that wearing a face mask remains one of the best ways to protect against the transmission of the virus.

The joint EASA/ECDC statement reminded travellers that masks may still be required on flights to destinations in certain countries that still require the wearing of masks on public transport and in transport hubs.

It also recommends that vulnerable passengers should continue to wear a face mask regardless of the rules, ideally an FFP2/N95/KN95 type mask which offers a higher level of protection than a standard surgical mask.

“From next week, face masks will no longer need to be mandatory in air travel in all cases, broadly aligning with the changing requirements of national authorities across Europe for public transport,” EASA executive director Patrick Ky said in the statement. 

“For passengers and air crews, this is a big step forward in the normalisation of air travel. Passengers should however behave responsibly and respect the choices of others around them. And a passenger who is coughing and sneezing should strongly consider wearing a face mask, for the reassurance of those seated nearby.”  

ECDC director Andrea Ammon added: “The development and continuous updates to the Aviation Health Safety Protocol in light of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic have given travellers and aviation personnel better knowledge of the risks of transmission of SARS-CoV-2 and its variants. 

“While risks do remain, we have seen that non-pharmaceutical interventions and vaccines have allowed our lives to begin to return to normal. 

“While mandatory mask-wearing in all situations is no longer recommended, it is important to be mindful that together with physical distancing and good hand hygiene it is one of the best methods of reducing transmission. 

“The rules and requirements of departure and destination states should be respected and applied consistently, and travel operators should take care to inform passengers of any required measures in a timely manner.”