Italy to lift coronavirus travel restrictions, allow tourists from early June

The Italian government says it will start allowing travel to and from the country from 3 June.

In this picture taken on Wednesday, May 13, 2020, a man walks in St. Mark's Square in Venice

In this picture taken on Wednesday, May 13, 2020, a man walks in St. Mark's Square in Venice Source: AP

Italy will reopen to European tourists from early June and scrap a 14-day mandatory quarantine period, the government said on Saturday, as it quickened the exit from the coronavirus lockdown.

Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte enforced an economically crippling shutdown in early March to counter a pandemic that has so far killed more than 31,500 people in Italy.

The shutdown halted all holidaymaking in a country heavily dependent on the tourism industry.

Although Italy never formally closed its borders and has allowed people to cross back and forth for work or health reasons, it banned movement for tourism and imposed a two-week isolation period for new arrivals.

In this picture taken on Wednesday, May 13, 2020, a man wearing a sanitary mask walks in Venice, Italy.
Source: AP

In March, the European Union banned foreign nationals from entering its Schengen zone, an open border zone comprising 22 of 27 member states, with exceptions for medical workers and essential travel. 

But on Wednesday, the EU set out plans for a phased restart of summer travel, urging member states to reopen its internal borders, while recommending that external borders remain shut for most travel until at least the middle of June. 

In a press release, Italy's government did not explicitly state which foreign nationals would be allowed to enter, but said its new measures respected the "legal order of the European Union".

Beginning on 3 June, visitors within the Schengen zone will be allowed to enter Italy with no obligation to self-isolate. Italians will also be able to move between regions, though local authorities can limit travel if infections spike.

Movements to and from abroad can be limited by regional decree "in relation to specific states and territories, in accordance with the principles of adequacy and proportionality to the epidemiological risk", the government said. 

The peak of Italy's contagion passed at the end of March, but with officials warning a second wave cannot be ruled out, Mr Conte had been reluctant to lift the lockdown quickly.

His softly-softly approach, however, has frustrated many of Italy's regions, with some going ahead and opening everything from restaurants to beaches early.

Italy's restaurants, bars and hairdressers are being allowed to reopen on Monday, two weeks earlier than initially planned. Shops will also open and Italians will finally be able to see friends, as long as they live within their same region.

Church masses will begin again, but the faithful will have to follow social distancing rules and holy water fonts will be empty. Italy's mosques will also reopen.

Regions will be able to decide how far apart clients should be in restaurants and other public places, or use the government's regulations, drawn up in collaboration with its scientific advisors.

Group gatherings remain banned.

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Published 16 May 2020 at 5:54pm
Source: AFP - SBS