‘Total confusion’: Brits stranded in UK fear being unable to return to Italy

Britons left stranded by UK travel restrictions have spoken of their confusion and worry, as a travel ban means they are currently unable to get back to their homes in Italy.

'Total confusion': Brits stranded in UK fear being unable to return to Italy
A sign informs passengers of a terminal closure at London Heathrow on December 21st amid mass UK flight cancellations. Photo: AFP

*Note: since this article was written, Italy has updated its rules on travel from the UK. See the latest news here.*

Many British nationals resident in Italy are now effectively stranded in the UK after Italy on Sunday issued a ban on all flights and arrivals from Britain until January 6th.

Around 40 countries worldwide have now restricted travel from the UK amid concerns about a new, more contagous strain of the coronavirus.

Italy is now reviewing the decision after the EU recommended ending the blanket travel ban.

Italian ministers told media on Tuesday evening that “all residents” will be allowed to return to the country, however no further details were given and no offical announcement has yet been made.

Italy is expected to confirm changes to the rules on Wednesday.

The EU has made it clear that residents in the EU who are stranded in the UK should be allowed to return home.

And even if residents can return, many Brits who travelled to the UK to spend Christmas with their families say they are worried about getting back into the country.

That's because the Brexit transition period ends on December 31st – and many Brits do not have their residency documents yet, meaning they may find it more difficult to prove they are Italian residents.

Despite Italy’s tough travel restrictions over Christmas, aimed at discouraging trips, many international residents had to go back to the UK for urgent reasons – from visiting sick relatives to making final Brexit preparations.

Now after navigating two sets of coronavirus restrictions, including testing and quarantine requirements, and with fewer flights available than in previous years, they have come up against a total ban on travel back to Italy.

Flights to and from the UK have been cancelled in Rome due to the travel ban. Photo: AFP

After initial “shock” and “confusion” as the travel ban was announced, Brits currently unsure of when they'll be able to get home say they're now trying to stay positive.
Reader David Clark had to return to the UK in order to get access to documents needed by his accountant in Italy.
“We arrived back in the UK on December 18th. Now, no doubt like many we are stuck in UK, currently in self-isolation, not knowing by what means or when we can return home to Italy.”
“At least we have friends able to buy and deliver shopping, as there's no online slots available,” he says.
Amanda Jones emailed to say she'd found herself stuck in the UK without her partner after coming back to make final preparations after moving to Italy ahead of Brexit.
“I was due to fly out on the 22nd. I left Italy on the 17th to drive our UK car back to England to sell it,” she explains.
“It wasn't on a whim. We moved to Italy in October and with Brexit coming up it was unclear if it would be legal to drive or if our insurance would even be valid.”
“Our residency was only finalised recently (which we needed to buy the car) and with the lockdown rules, we had only been able to buy an Italian car in the last couple of weeks so there was only a small window of opportunity to get the car back.”
“I am lucky I have somewhere to stay while I'm here. My partner is well stocked up at home, but will be faced with having Christmas on her own.”
Amanda says she completely understood the decision to stop arrivals from the UK amid concerns about the new strain of coronavirus “but it doesn't make it any easier to deal with”.
“The shock has passed now and we're trying to stay positive but it's certainly a Christmas we won't forget anytime soon.”
British residents hit by the travel ban may not be able to spend Christmas in Italy as planned. Photo: AFP
Rona Westwell has also been stranded in the UK and is separated from her husband.
“We were returning home to Sicily after a brief trip to the UK to see my daughter who was ill,” she tells The Local.
“My husband returned to Sicily last Saturday, so as to be able to go out to food shop before the quarantine rule changed on Monday. I was to return this next Wednesday, but now we are stranded in two different countries on our own. Very upsetting!”
Au pair Annalisa Harris had travelled back to London to visit her elderly parents. She arrived days before the British government announced tougher restrictions in her area due to the new strain believed to be circulating in London and the south-east.
“First we were put under Tier 4 restrictions and now this,” she says. “It's been total confusion, very stressful.”
Annalisa had been supposed to return to work in Milan on January 4th, which now might not be possible. “Luckily the Italian family I work for have been very kind and understanding,” she said. “I'm really just grateful that I'm able to stay in Italy after Brexit.”
British nationals stuck in the UK and hoping to return home to Italy are now waiting for an update from the Italian government.
The British Embassy in Rome on Wednesday said it was providing information for those who may need assistance.
“We are monitoring the situation closely and working to ensure commercial routes to the UK remain open, but we continue to keep the situation under review,” said a spokesperson. 
“Our primary concern is the safety and security of British nationals overseas and our consular teams are available around the clock to support them.”
“Our travel advice is constantly updated and anyone can sign up to alerts on our website or follow our travel advice social media accounts to see the latest developments.” 

READ ALSO: Italy confirms post-Brexit visa rules for British nationals

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WHO expects more monkeypox-related deaths in Europe

The World Health Organization's European office said Saturday that more monkeypox-related deaths can be expected, following reports of the first fatalities outside Africa, while stressing that severe complications were still be rare.

WHO expects more monkeypox-related deaths in Europe

“With the continued spread of monkeypox in Europe, we will expect to see more deaths,” Catherine Smallwood, Senior Emergency Officer at WHO Europe, said in a statement.

Smallwood emphasised that the goal needs to be “interrupting transmission quickly in Europe and stopping this outbreak”.

However, Smallwood stressed that in most cases the disease heals itself without the need for treatment.

“The notification of deaths due to monkeypox does not change our assessment of the outbreak in Europe. We know that although self-limiting in most cases, monkeypox can cause severe complications,” Smallwood noted.

The Spanish health ministry recorded a second monkeypox-related death on Saturday, a day after Spain and Brazil reported their first fatalities.

The announcements marked what are thought to be the first deaths linked to the current outbreak outside Africa.

Spanish authorities would not give the specific cause of death for the fatalities pending the outcome of an autopsy, while Brazilian authorities underlined that the man who died had “other serious conditions”.

“The usual reasons patients might require hospital care include help in managing pain, secondary infections, and in a small number of cases the need to manage life-threatening complications such as encephalitis,” Smallwood explained.

According to the WHO, more than 18,000 cases have been detected throughout the world outside of Africa since the beginning of May, with the majority of them in Europe.

The WHO last week declared the monkeypox outbreak a global health emergency.

As cases surge globally, the WHO on Wednesday called on the group currently most affected by the virus — men who have sex with men — to limit their sexual partners.

Early signs of the disease include a high fever, swollen lymph glands and a chickenpox-like rash.

The disease usually heals by itself after two to three weeks, sometimes taking a month.

A smallpox vaccine from Danish drug maker Bavarian Nordic, marketed under the name Jynneos in the United States and Imvanex in Europe, has also been found to protect against monkeypox.