“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.
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.
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.
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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.