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TRAVEL

EXPLAINED: Will Italy be on the UK’s ‘green list’ from next week?

As pressure mounts on the UK government to ease travel restrictions from 'amber list' countries, we look at how likely it is that Italy will move onto the 'green list' next week and what that would mean for travellers.

EXPLAINED: Will Italy be on the UK’s 'green list' from next week?
(Photo by Ben FATHERS / AFP)

With the peak summer holiday season fast approaching, the UK government is shortly due to review its traffic light system for international travel, with Italy and France among the destinations speculated to move into the lowest-risk ‘green list’ category.

Following the last review on June 3rd, the next announcement was expected on June 24th as the government planned to release changes every three weeks. However, UK authorities said the next review will now be on Monday June 28th.

With just days to go until the official announcement, how likely is it that Italy will make the cut?

READ ALSO:

How the UK government decides who makes the green list

When deciding which lis to put countries on, the British government takes into account the percentage of the population vaccinated, the rate of infection, the prevalence of variants of concern and the reliability of a country’s scientific data and genomic sequencing.

This system was introduced in May to restart international travel, with different parameters and measures set, classifying destinations as red, amber or green.

British authorities stressed that people should only be booking holidays to places on the ‘green list’, but only 12 made the final count, including Australia, the Falkland Islands and New Zealand.

Portugal was subsequently dropped from the lowest-risk green category and moved to ‘amber’ due to the country’s worsening health situation, leaving only 11 on the UK’s ‘green list’.

EXPLAINED: The European countries on England’s ‘amber’ travel list and what that means

The UK’s current ‘green list’. Source: gov.uk

So are Italy’s data looking good enough to go green?

It’s unlikely that the UK government will be lenient when drawing up the new lists, as a government source told The Guardian, “My sense is that we’ll continue to be very cautious in thinking about how we take any steps that could increase transmission.”

But industry professionals have argued that some countries, including Italy, warrant being moved onto the UK’s ‘green list’.

Travel expert Paul Charles said that 10 countries, including Italy, justify being moved to the lowest-risk status based on vaccination rates and declining infection numbers.

He added, “The traffic light system is shot to pieces at the moment, because of the way they treated Portugal two weeks ago. They’ve either got to reinvigorate it or outline how they’re going to enable fully jabbed citizens to travel with more freedom when returning from Amber zones.”

The graph below shows how these countries stack up in terms of their vaccine rollout, based on at least one dose, compared to the United Kingdom and European Union average.

Italy’s health situation is improving, and almost all of the country is under light restrictions in the lowest-risk ‘white zone’ category, bar the region of Valle d’Aosta, -which is the only area to remain in the low-risk ‘yellow zone’.

The country has been reporting around 2,000 new daily infections on average nationwide since June 7th – the lowest figures seen since September 2020.

According to the latest weekly health data, the national average Rt reproduction number, which shows the rate of new infections, was steady at 0.69 (it was 0.68 the week before).

Italy’s national average 7-day incidence rate had fallen to 16 cases per 100,000 inhabitants, from 25 the week previously.

Regional authorities have also dropped most of the remaining coronavirus restrictions earlier than planned under the national roadmap for reopening as a result of the latest health data.

READ ALSO: Coronavirus: How much is the Delta variant spreading in Italy?

And the vaccination rollout continues to gather pace too, with some 46.6 million shots administered and over 16 million people fully vaccinated, making up almost 30 percent of the population over 12 years old, according to the latest figures.

But concern over the so-called Delta variant might prevent the UK government from downgrading Italy from its ‘amber’ status.

Although the Higher Health Institute has estimated the variant, which originally originated in India, only accounts for around 1 percent of the country’s total cases, further data has suggested that the real figure could be as high as 26 percent, making Italy the fifth-highest in the world for the prevalence of this strain.

If Italy makes the green list, what are the rules?

Should Italy qualify for green status, it isn’t business as usual in the pre-Covid sense.

There’s still protocol to follow, but thankfully for travellers who may have been put off by lengthy quarantines, there’s no requirement to isolate on arrival.

However, some testing remains in place. You have to take a Covid-19 test on or before day two after you arrive, with children aged 4 and under being exempt.

Quarantine only applies if the test result is positive. Alternatively, you must quarantine if the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) informs you that you’ve travelled to England with someone who has tested positive for Covid-19.

(Photo by Oli SCARFF / AFP)

What will happen if Italy stays on the amber list?

If UK authorities deem Italy’s health data isn’t favourable and the country stays ‘amber’, there could still be changes.

The current rules for arrival in the UK from an ‘amber’ country include the need to quarantine for 10 days and take a pre-departure test, as well as a PCR test on day two and day eight. You can also take an additional test on day five to end self-isolation early.

EXPLAINED: How has Italy changed its rules on travel from the UK?

Will the rules change for vaccinated travellers?

The British government is “working on” plans to drop the quarantine from amber countries if travellers are fully vaccinated.

The UK health secretary, Matt Hancock, said in an interview with ITV news that ministers are looking at how to scrap the 10-day quarantine on return from an amber list destination.

“We are working on what extra freedoms people can have when they are double vaccinated but we’re not there yet,” he said.

Reader question: What Covid-19 tests do I need for travel between Italy and the UK?

At this stage, there is no detail to the plan, and when asked if the system would be in place by the beginning of August, he said: “We’ll get there when it’s safe to do so.”

It was not clear from Hancock’s statement whether the rule change would also apply to people who had been vaccinated outside of the UK, as he was talking about British travellers returning from abroad.

From July 1st, the EU ‘green pass’ scheme will mean those fully vaccinated in Italy can travel freely around the EU and Schengen zone by using their vaccine passport.

No longer a member of the EU, however, the UK will not benefit from this.

Stay up to date with Italy’s travel rules by following The Local’s travel section and checking the Italian Health Ministry’s website (in English).

Please note The Local is unable to give advice on individual cases.

Member comments

  1. I don’t get it, UK have had a terrible time with Delta but they had taken the EU countries off the green list. Has it occurred to them that may be Italy doesn’t want to be on their green list at the moment?

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VENICE

‘Fighting for survival’: Has Venice become a city no one can live in?

As the population of Venice sinks below 50,000, activists say 'normal life' is impossible in the floating city. What does the future hold for its dwindling number of residents?

'Fighting for survival': Has Venice become a city no one can live in?

Venice made national and international headlines last week with the news that its resident population had fallen below 50,000 for the first time, a stark symbol of the city’s metamorphosis from thriving metropolis to tourist playground.

There was some initial confusion as to the source of the figure: a widely-shared story from news agency Ansa said that Venice City Hall (the Comune di Venezia)’s statistics office had recorded its population size as 49,997 on August 10th – but when contacted by The Local, the comune denied having provided any such information, and said its most up-to-date population stats only cover up to July 31st.

Instead, the number appears to have come from Venessia, a Venice-based activist group which maintains a (de)population counter based on provisional updates from the civil registry office that have yet to be vetted.

The counter put the city’s population below the 50,000 threshold on August 10th; as of Thursday, the number had dropped to 49,989.

Matteo Secchi points to a population tracker that counts 49,997 Venetian residents.
Matteo Secchi points to a population tracker that counts 49,997 Venetian residents. Credit: Venessia.com

The exact moment when Venice lost its 50,000th resident may be lost to history, but what’s undeniable is that the city’s permanent population is disappearing at an alarming rate, from over 174,000 in 1951 to less than a third of that today. Meanwhile, its tourist numbers continue to break records.

“I feel like a stranger in my own home,” says Matteo Secchi, a native Venetian who leads the Venessia.com group and runs its website.

“I live near the Rialto Bridge, and there are no more Venetians there, only foreigners. Not that there’s anything wrong with foreigners…. we are open to all cultures, but we would like ours to survive too.”

READ ALSO: Mass tourism is back in Italy – but the way we travel is changing

Secchi currently works on a hotel reception desk after his own B&B went under during the pandemic – an irony which, given Venessia’s emphasis on the damage inflicted by the tourist industry on the city, is not lost on him.

“Everyone works in the tourism sector here,” he says matter-of-factly.

It’s not that tourism is an inherent evil, says Secchi, acknowledging that it’s made Venice rich; but its implacable hold on the city has driven up rents and property prices, causing ordinary shops and affordable accommodation to disappear.

“There are fewer of us all the time because you can’t live normally,” he says.

He compares modern-day Venice to Disneyland, saying he often feels like “a little monkey: people come and take photos and say, ‘look at this nut!'”. What young person wants to live their life as an unpaid theme park mascot?

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

In 2009, Secchi and the other Venessia organisers staged a mock funeral for Venice after its population dropped below 60,000. The spectacle involved rowing a pink coffin down the Grand Canal, flanked by several gondolas, and depositing it outside City Hall.

Though he’s proud of the demonstration and the attention it received (“The second-biggest news story out of Italy that year, after the Aquila earthquake!”) he has no plans hold another one this time, noting that of the five founding members of his organisation, he’s the only one still alive.

Venessia's 2009 'funeral' for Venice.
Venessia’s 2009 ‘funeral’ for Venice. Photo by ANDREA PATTARO / AFP.

Venessia has a long list of recommendations for how to rebuild the city’s population, including giving tax breaks to all non-tourism businesses, offering financial incentives for landlords to rent to residents rather than tourists, and having a ten-year moratorium on building tourist accommodation (“Do you think the comune would agree to this?” I ask of the latter. “No!” Secchi chuckles).

One of the organisation’s more realistic proposals is levying a tax on tourist rentals to finance the renovation of Venice’s dilapidated public housing, much of which stands curiously empty for a city with some of the highest rents and real estate values in the country.

READ ALSO: ‘The myth of Venice’: How the Venetian brand helps the city survive

There’s no easily accessed public record of exactly how many empty public housing units there are in Venice, but the issue was the subject of a Vice documentary in the early days of the pandemic, when some restaurant and hotel workers suddenly out of a job were forced to squat in abandoned buildings unfit for human habitation.

Secchi becomes particularly animated on this point. “It’s very interesting – these numbers now form the basis of our protest, we’re going to focus on them. It’s been years that we’ve been saying ‘ah, there are all these empty homes’, but we’ve never got official figures.” 

Activists hold up a banner displaying the number 49,999, as part of a campaign to draw attention to Venice's rapid depopulation.
Activists hold up a banner displaying the number 49,999, as part of a campaign to draw attention to Venice’s rapid depopulation. Credit: Venessia.com

While the activist is frustrated with the comune‘s inaction in the face of what he sees as a slow-motion catastrophe, Secchi doesn’t think the city’s current leaders are worse than its any of its previous ones.

“In the past 40 years, there hasn’t been an administration capable of handling this issue,” he says.

A quality they all tend to share, in Secchi’s view, is that they have a “coda di paglia” – literally, a ‘straw tail’; an expression that refers to a person who is highly defensive in response to any criticism.

When the latest population figures made the headlines, the comune were quick to dismiss the issue as a false alarm, saying that the numbers fail to take into account all the students and temporary workers who live in the city without being registered residents.

READ ALSO: How will the new tourist-control system work in Venice?

Secchi rejects the notion that these people in these categories count as Venetians, arguing that a community is made up of individuals who put down roots, not those who pass through for a few months or years.

But if they want to view the issue purely in terms of numbers, he says, by their own logic the comune should take into account all the people who falsely claim Venice as their primary residence in order to evade the inflated property taxes that come with second home ownership, but in reality live elsewhere most of the year.

A banner hung on a washing line bears the number 49,999. Venessia began a countdown to the number as publicity campaign to draw attention to the city's population decline, several months ago.

A banner on a washing line bears the number 49,999. Venessia began a countdown publicity campaign to highlight the city’s population decline several months ago. Credit: Venessia.com

Venice has recently taken one step to address its over-tourism problem, with the announcement by Mayor Luigi Brugnaro at the start of July that the city will impose a long-discussed tourist tax of €3-€10 for day-trippers from January 2023.

Whether the tax will have any real calming effect on tourism, or be used to benefit residents in a way that might help rebuild their numbers, remains to be seen.

“We’re in favour of freedom, but we also want to defend our identity,” says Secchi.

“We’re not fighting for anything strange; we’re fighting for our survival.”

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