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TRAVEL

Italy hopes to expand ‘Covid-tested’ flights to more countries

A scheme allowing air passengers to skip quarantine by getting tested for coronavirus before and after their flight will be extended to more destinations, the Italian government says.

A passenger arriving in Rome gets tested for coronavirus.
A passenger arriving in Rome gets tested for coronavirus. Photo by Andreas Solaro/AFP

“The list of countries involved in trials of so-called ‘Covid-tested’ flights will be expanded,” said a government statement announcing Italy’s latest emergency decree, which was signed on Tuesday evening and comes into force from March 6th to April 6th.

Currently the United States is the only country outside the EU with a quarantine-free route to Italy, with passengers allowed to avoid 14 days in isolation if they travel on special flights from New York or Atlanta to Rome. 

READ ALSO: How soon can Italy hope to restart tourism this summer?

All passengers are required to test negative for coronavirus no more than 48 hours before boarding, as well as submitting to another rapid test upon arrival at Rome’s Fiumicino airport. 

Italy’s international travel restrictions continue to apply, meaning that the only people eligible to fly from the US are those with an essential reason, such as returning to a permanent residence in Italy or to study or work.

The scheme began a trial run in early December and had been authorised to continue until March 5th, though the success of the first three months means it will now be extended at least until the new decree expires on April 6th.

The flights, operated by Alitalia and Delta, have had “excellent results”, according to the CEO of the Aeroporti di Roma group that manages Fiumicino, Marco Troncone. Traffic increased by 142 percent on the New York-Rome route and 28 percent for Atlanta-Rome while only 0.13 percent of passengers were found to have the virus, he stated earlier this month.

READ ALSO: First Covid-tested flight lands in Rome from New York

Passengers who just landed in Rome from New York wait to get tested for Covid-19. Photo by Andreas Solaro/AFP

The Italian government may also “identify additional routes” for Covid-tested flights, the decree states, to be decided by the ministries of health, transport and foreign affairs.

Italy’s last government had already signed off on Covid-tested flights between Italy and Germany, with Lufthansa originally slated to start running services from Frankfurt and Munich to Rome early this year, but those plans were put on hold when Germany went back into lockdown.

Meanwhile Italian travel company Alpitour has announced plans to offer Covid-tested package holidays to Spain’s Canary Islands from the end of March, with vacationers required to get tested before both their outbound and return flights. The company is offering discounts to help cover the cost of the first test and will conduct the second directly at its resorts.

READ ALSO: 

It’s one of several schemes being tried out as the tourism industry struggles to restart amid health precautions and border restrictions. Other proposals include an “immunity passport” showing proof of vaccination and/or a recent negative test result for Europeans who want to travel this summer.

The measures stand to make the biggest difference for travellers outside the European Union, who currently have to spend 14 days in quarantine if they come to Italy. People arriving from other countries within the EU or Schengen zone – with the exception of Austria – can instead simply show a negative test result from the 48 hours before travel.

EU residents can also visit Italy as tourists, while most people outside the bloc need an essential reason to travel. 

One option to get round these barriers would be to create “travel corridors” to certain non-EU countries, allowing Italian residents to holiday there and vice versa. Alpitour has called to be allowed to extend its “Covid-tested trips” to other destinations popular with Italian holidaymakers, including Mexico, Madagascar and the Maldives.

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VENICE

EXPLAINED: How will the tourist-control system work in Venice?

Venice is introducing a new system to discourage day-trippers in hopes of curbing problems with overtourism in the popular hotspot. Here is what you need to know.

EXPLAINED: How will the tourist-control system work in Venice?

After years of discussing a possible “tourist tax”, the city of Venice has confirmed it will make day-trippers pay from €3 to €10 for access to the city centre starting on January 16th.

Venice Mayor Luigi Brugnaro said the goal of the new tourism fee is to discourage day tourism at certain times of the year and encourage overnight tourism. Day-trippers will have to pay a fee, but those who stay overnight continue only to have to pay the city tax of €2 to €5, according to a government press release.

The Commission and the City Council will now examine the regulatory text for the final green light scheduled for the summer.

“We are the first in the world to introduce this system, and we are aware that not everything will work well from the beginning, but we will be ready to improve in the course of work. We want to guarantee the tourist the best quality of the visit and make sure that the city is able to give visitors all the services they need”, said Tourism Secretary Simone Venturini.

READ ALSO: After flooding and coronavirus, is it time Venice stopped relying on tourism?

How much will I have to pay?

The contributo di acesso, or access contribution, will cost from €3 to €10, depending on factors such as tourism numbers for the day and season.

The city will determine a certain threshold of tourists, after which people will be required to pay higher sums. Travellers are encouraged to book in advance to avoid price increases.

Does the payment have to be made in advance?

The government said that nobody would be denied entry to Venice, meaning a pre-registration is not necessary. However, the mayor said that those who book their visit in advance would be “rewarded”. The reward will likely discount the fee.

How will the system work? Where do I pay?

According to the City of Venice, the payment is an alternative to the city tax. It will be required from every person that goes to the old city centre of Venice, as well as other major tourist destinations and islands in the region.

READ ALSO: 16 surprising facts about Venice to mark 16 centuries of the lagoon city

A single payment guarantees access to the old town and the smaller islands.

Tourists will be able to pay through an online and “multilingual” platform where they will receive a QR code to present in case of controls. Tickets should also be available to buy in connection with public transport – so if you are arriving by train, it will be possible to buy the train ticket and the entry pass together.

Who is excluded or exempt from the payment?

There are several exceptions to the payment, according to the website. Among them are residents from the Comune di Venezia, those who work or study there, and those who own homes in the city.

Additionally, exceptions include those born in the Comune di Venezia, children under six years of age, people with disabilities and their accompanying person, public workers, volunteers, people visiting family members, prisoners, or attending funerals, and many others.

Residents of the Veneto region “up to the thresholds that will be set by a specific Council resolution” are also exempt.

Those who stay overnight and, therefore, already pay the city tax through their hotel or short-term rental booking are also exempt from the fee.

The city of Murano, in the metropolitan region of Venice (Photo by Claudio Schwarz on Unsplash)

What about people arriving on cruises?

Venice is a very popular stop for cruise ships and people visiting the city on a cruise tour will also have to pay the fee as they disembark in the old town. However, the City of Venice said they might determine a lump-sum measure in agreement with the relevant carriers.

READ ALSO: OPINION: Why more of Italy’s top destinations must limit tourist numbers

Which smaller islands are included?

Only one ticket and payment is required for those travelling to multiple islands, including Venice. The islands that are part of the group are:

  • Lido di Venezia
  • Pellestrina
  • Murano
  • Burano
  • Torcello
  • Sant’Erasmo
  • Mazzorbo
  • Mazzorbetto
  • Vignole
  • S. Andrea
  • La certosa
  • S. Servolo
  • S. Clemente
  • Poveglia

What if I simply don’t pay?

If you fail to produce proof of payment or that you are exempt from the fee, the sanction is from €50 to €300. The fine is the same in the case of people making false statements trying to obtain exemptions or reductions.

Additionally, visitors who don’t pay in advance will have to pay the full €10 fee.

For more info click here.

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