EXPLAINED: What you need to know about Italy’s UK coronavirus travel ban

EXPLAINED: What you need to know about Italy’s UK coronavirus travel ban
Alitalia planes grounded at Italy's Fiumicino airport. Photo: AFP
Italy on Sunday banned arrivals from the UK amid concerns about a potent new strain of the Covid-19 virus. Here are the details of the new rules.

On Saturday the UK tightened its coronavirus restrictions over Christmas, blaming a new strain of the virus which it said could be up to 70 percent more contagious. 

READ ALSO: Travel chaos in Europe: Which countries have imposed travel bans on UK?

After British Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the new strain was “out of control” in parts of the UK, European countries struggling to deal with their own virus situations reacted with alarm and began suspending travel. 

Italy was quick to announce a strict flight ban on Sunday shortly after The Netherlands and Belgium. Dozens of countries including Germany, France and Sweden announced travel restrictions later on Sunday.

While many countries opted for initial travel bans of 24 or 48 hours, while they assess the situation, Italy has banned air travel right through to January 6th according to an update on the Italian government's travel advice website.

Here's a closer look at Italy's rules on travel from the UK:

Who is affected?

Anyone who was planning to fly between the UK and Italy – but also anyone planning to enter Italy from elsewhere after visiting the UK within the past two weeks, and anyone who has already arrived in Italy after being in the UK within the past two weeks.

Italy's health and transport ministers on Sunday signed an ordinance (official text here, in Italian).stating that entering and transiting within Italy “is prohibited to people who, in the fourteen days prior to this ordinance, have stayed or transited in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.”

This means that not only have UK flights been stopped, but anyone who has been in the UK at all within the past two weeks is banned from entering Italy – even if they arrive in Italy from another country.

Anyone who has already arrived in Italy from the UK is required to get tested (more details on this below).

Italian citizens and permanent residents of Italy are also covered by the rules.

There are no exemptions for essential travel included in the new ordinance signed on Sunday.

What about travelling from Italy to the UK?

There was confusion on Sunday over whether flights were banned in both directions or just flights to Italy from the UK, after the Foreign Minister said Italy would suspend flights “with” the UK.

The official text of the ordinance published on Monday states that “air traffic from the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is prohibited”.

However the ban appears to be affecting travel both ways, as flights between the two countries are cancelled.

Photo: AFP

Some airlines on Sunday were reportedly blocking passengers from boarding flights from Italian airports to the UK, while Rome's airport authority confirmed that flights both ways were cancelled.

“Flights to and from the UK and Northern Ireland have been cancelled, due to the Health Ministry ordinance valid until January 6th”, Aeroporti di Roma said in a statement posted on social media.
 

The Italian consulate in London is currently advising travellers to contact their airline.

While Italy's restrictions apply to air travel only, travelling from the UK to Italy by road or rail is currently impossible as France has introduced a complete ban on all travel from the UK.

Who needs to be tested?

Anyone already in Italy who recently travelled from Britain “is required to undergo an antigen or molecular swab test by contacting the health authorities,” Health Minister Roberto Speranza said on Sunday

The ordinance later clarified that this applies to anyone who has been in the UK within the past 14 days, even if they are asymptomatic.

 
It was not made immediately clear in official statements, but this appears to mean that people who have already had a negative test result before arriving in Italy would now need to be tested again.
 
All travellers from EU and Schengen countries, including the UK, have already been required to get tested before travelling to Italy since December 10th.
 
The 110 passengers who landed at Rome Fiumicino on Sunday's flight from London Heathrow – the last one before the travel ban – were being tested on arrival in Italy, despite already facing the requirement to test before travel.
 
For advice on testing, you can contact the freephone coronavirus advice hotline in the region of Italy you are currently in.
 
How does this affect Italy's quarantine rules?
 
The flight ban complicates things further for travellers already navigating existing Italian travel restrictions covering the Christmas period.
 
Italy had already announced earlier this month that all arrivals would have to quarantine for two weeks if they had been abroad between December 21st and January 6th.
 
So if you are able to return to Italy on January 7th, this means you will then need to quarantine upon arrival.
 

 
Is there anything else to worry about?

Yes, January 1st. This is the date that the Brexit transition period ends and the UK is therefore outside the European Bloc.

Since March, the EU has closed its external borders and only essential travel is allowed for people coming in from outside Europe.

Travel within the EU has not been affected by this, and at present that includes the UK.

However from January 1st the same rules will apply to the UK as they do to America, Canada and other non-EU countries, which means no non-essential travel into Italy.

It's still possible that the EU could make an exception for the UK – but the rapidly diminishing time frame plus the virus mutation makes that seem unlikely.

Are you affected by the travel ban? We’d like to hear your story. Get in touch at [email protected]


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