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Covid-19: Italy cuts quarantine time for travellers from the UK and Austria

Italy will allow passengers from the United Kingdom, Austria and Israel to undergo a shorter, five-day quarantine on entering the country under new regulations that take effect on Tuesday.   

Covid-19: Italy cuts quarantine time for travellers from the UK and Austria
Passengers queue to check in at Manchester Airport. (Photo by Oli SCARFF/AFP

From April 7th-30th, these travellers can forgo a two-week quarantine to enter Italy.

The three countries have been included in a list of over 30 countries, most in the European Union, in which the mandatory quarantine is shortened to five days from 14.

EXPLAINED: Which travellers have to quarantine in Italy and for how long?

The new rules taking effect on Tuesday reflect, in part, the progress of vaccination campaigns in Israel and Britain.

The below chart from Our World in Data shows the stark difference between the number of people vaccinated in the UK and Israel compared with Italy and Austria.

In Austria, however, the two-week quarantine is still in effect for those from the Tyrol, where the South African coronavirus variant has been circulating.

People from countries on the list with fewer restrictions still have to submit a negative test taken within 48 hours of arrival in Italy, and take a second test following their five-day quarantine.

Travel to Italy from the UK has been heavily restricted since late December 2020, when an entry ban was placed on all travellers who had stayed in, or passed through the UK as the new, more infectious British variant of coronavirus gained traction.

Arrivals from EU countries were still allowed, but on March 30th Rome initiated a five-day quarantine rule for these countries, too.

Italy spent the Easter weekend under lockdown, with all restaurants and most shops closed, as all of the country was made a restricted ‘red’ zone.

As of Tuesday, some regions will return to ‘orange’, with slightly loosened restrictions on movement, but bars and restaurants remain shut, with only take-away service allowed.

The first country in Europe to be hit by the coronavirus pandemic, Italy has so far reported more than 111,000 Covid-19 related deaths.

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COVID-19

Covid-19: Are Italian live events at risk of being postponed?

As the infection rate rises sharply across the country, Italian virologists are calling for concerts and festivals to be rescheduled.

Covid-19: Are Italian live events at risk of being postponed?

Italy has seen a large increase in the number of Covid-19 cases in recent days, so much so that a number of virologists across the country are now urging the government to postpone major live events in a bid to curb infections. 

According to a new report by Italy’s independent health watchdog, the Gimbe Foundation, 595,349 new cases were recorded in the week from June 29th to July 5th; a worrying 55 percent increase on the previous week. 

In the same time span, the country also registered a 32.8 percent rise in the number of hospitalised patients, which went from 6,035 to 8,003.  

The latest Covid wave, which is being driven by the highly contagious Omicron 5 variant, is a “real cause for concern”, especially in terms of a “potential patient overload”, said Nino Cartabellotta, president of the Gimbe Foundation. 

As Italian cities prepare to host a packed calendar of concerts and festivals this summer, health experts are questioning whether such events should actually take place given the high risk of transmission associated with mass gatherings.

READ ALSO: What tourists in Italy need to know if they get Covid-19

“Rescheduling these types of events would be the best thing to do right now,” said Massimo Ciccozzi, Director of Epidemiology at Campus Bio-Medico University of Rome. 

The summer wave is expected to peak in mid-July but, Ciccozzi warns, the upcoming live events might “delay [the peak] until the end of July or even beyond” and extend the infection curve.

Antonello Maruotti, Professor of Statistics at LUMSA University of Rome, recently shared Ciccozzi’s concerns, saying that live events as big as Maneskin’s scheduled Rome concert are “definitely not a good idea”. 

The Italian rock band are slated to perform at the Circus Maximus on Saturday, July 9th but the expected turnout – over 70,000 fans are set to attend the event – has raised objections from an array of Italian doctors, with some warning that the concert might cause as many as 20,000 new cases.

If it were to materialise, the prospected scenario would significantly aggravate Lazio’s present medical predicament as there are currently over 186,000 Covid cases in the region (nearly 800 patients are receiving treatment in local hospitals). 

Italian rock band Maneskin performing in Turin

Italian rock band Maneskin are expected to perform at the Circus Maximus in Rome on Saturday, July 9th. Photo by Marco BERTORELLO / AFP

But, despite pleas to postpone the event, it is likely that Maneskin’s concert will take place as scheduled.

Alessandro Onorato, Rome’s Tourism Councillor, said that rescheduling is “out of question” and that “all recommendations from the local medical authorities will be adopted” with the help of the event’s organisers and staff on the ground.

At the time of writing, there is also no indication that the Italian government will consider postponing other major live events scheduled to take place in the coming weeks, though the situation is evolving rapidly and a U-turn on previous dispositions can’t be ruled out.

READ ALSO: At a glance: What are the Covid-19 rules in Italy now?

On this note, it is worth mentioning that Italy has now scrapped all of its former Covid measures except the requirement to wear FFP2 face masks on public transport (though not on planes) and in healthcare settings.

The use of face coverings is, however, still recommended in all crowded areas, including outdoors – exactly the point that leading Italian doctors are stressing in the hope that live events will not lead to large-scale infection.

Antonio Magi, President of Rome’s OMCEO (College of Doctors, Surgeons and Dentists), said: “Our advice is to wear FFP2 masks […] in high-risk situations.”

“I hope that young people will heed our recommendations and think about the health risks that their parents or grandparents might be exposed to after the event [they attend].”

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