ROME: Italy will reopen for regional and international travel from June 3 as the country’s coronavirus crisis eases.
The removal of travel restrictions, as well the elimination of a 14-day mandatory quarantine for overseas arrivals, comes ahead of Europe’s summer season. Tourism accounts for 13 percent of Italy’s gross domestic product.
Italy’s lockdown began on March 9 and ended on May 17, imposing the toughest measures in Europe to contain the spread of the virus. More than 31,600 people have died in Italy from COVID-19 since February, making it the third highest death toll in the world behind the US and the UK.
But the daily death toll dropped to 153 on Saturday, the lowest since the lockdown started.
“People will be able to go wherever they want — to a shop, to the mountains, to a lake or the seaside,” Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said as he announced the end of most restrictions from early next month. “We are ready all over Italy to have our tourists back. Rome is unique. Italy is unique. And we will do whatever it takes to share our beauty and art with the rest of the world which had too much to suffer from this pandemic.”
The government said that people would no longer have to justify travel within their own region and would be able to meet friends as well as family. Travel will only be restricted if an area is considered to be a high risk for coronavirus infections.
Southern regions, which were less infected than those in the north such as Lombardy and Veneto, had called for a swifter rollback of restrictions but Conte wanted a gradual return to normality due to fears of a second wave of infection.
But some preventive measures will remain — such as social distancing — and these will have to be strictly enforced.
Pier Giovanni Barducci runs a beach in Rimini on the Adriatic coast that is popular with Russian, German and British holidaymakers. “People may be obliged to come to the beach wearing a mask, but who cares?” he told Arab News. “We will make waterproof ones, even stylish ones with their colors matching swimming suits so that sunbathers and swimmers will find it less hard to wear them.”
The Health Ministry regulations for his business were tough because he would lose capacity, he said. “But we need to go back to work,” Barducci added. “Otherwise we will all be dead even if coronavirus has not killed us. Italians have lots of inventiveness. We will find a way somehow.”
Other business owners were also looking forward to the return of tourists and income. Giulio Zonin manages the Hotel Savoia, which is close to the popular and picturesque Rialto Bridge in Venice. “We hope to work with tourists from neighboring countries, who can travel here by car,” he told Arab News. “People from Austria, Switzerland and Germany can come here after only a few hours’ drive, so we are confident they will be back with us soon.”
Preparations were also underway further south to welcome people back after months of economic standstill.
Sardinia’s governor, Christian Solinas, told Italian business newspaper Il Sole 24 ore that the island’s airports were once again open to private jets.
“We are COVID-19 free all over the island, so the Costa Smeralda can come back to life,” he said, referring to the billionaire hotspot holiday destination.
Regions are allowed to reactivate all sectors of the economy as long as safety protocols and social distancing measures are followed. Restaurants can reopen if customers are kept at a distance of one meter apart, with mandatory face masks for staff and clients when they are not at tables.
Conte described the decision to lift curbs as a calculated risk. “We’re facing this risk and we have to accept it because otherwise we will never get started again.”
He said that theaters and cinemas could reopen with precautions in place from June 15, but that “more certainties” were needed to restart Italy’s Serie A football league.