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ECONOMY

Coronavirus crisis in Italy ‘is not over’, president warns

The coronavirus crisis is not over in Italy, President Sergio Mattarella warned on the country's national day Tuesday, a day after a doctor created a furore by claiming that the virus no longer "exists" in the country.

Coronavirus crisis in Italy 'is not over', president warns
People taking a gondola ride and a gondolier wave as the Italian Air Force acrobatic unit Frecce Tricolori (Tricolored Arrows) perform on May 29, 2020 over Venice. AFP

The latest figures in Italy continue to show a downward trend in new cases as it prepares the next stage of its gradual easing of a national lockdown, after nearly 33,500 people died over three months from COVID-19.

Italians were celebrating Republic Day with “feelings of uncertainty and reasons to hope,” Mattarella said.

“The crisis is not over and institutions and citizens alike will still have to face its consequences and trauma,” Mattarella warned.

It would be “unacceptable and unforgivable to squander this legacy of sacrifice, pain, hope and the need to trust our people,” he said.

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“Italy – in this emergency situation – has shown its best face,” Mattarella said, adding that he was proud of his country and the “moral unity” of Italians which will be “the engine of rebirth”.

Alberto Zangrillo, head of the San Raffaele Hospital in Milan, had caused a row this week by claiming that the virus no longer existed in Italy, prompting the government and experts around the world to urge caution.

Italy's President Sergio Mattarella. AFP

Mattarella on Tuesday took part in national day celebrations wearing a face mask as he laid a wreath at the tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Rome.

The Frecce Tricolori — the aerobatic squad of the Italian Air Force — flew over Rome, releasing a trail of smoke across the sky in the three colours of the national flag.

They had flown over several cities in the north, the part of the peninsula hardest hit by the new coronavirus, earlier in the week for a “message of hope and solidarity”.

The holiday marks the day in 1946 when Italians, in a passionate referendum, got rid of the monarchy and became a republic.

Mattarella was due to visit Codogno, the town where the virus first appeared in Italy in mid-February, on Tuesday afternoon to pay tribute to the memory of coronavirus victims in the Lombardy region.

Still traumatised but eager to return to normal life and to revive the economy, in particular the tourism sector, Italy has been gradually loosening restrictions since the beginning of May.

Shops, cafes and terraces have reopened, as have the vast majority of monuments and tourist sites including Saint Peter's Basilica, Pompeii, the Colosseum, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, the cathedrals of Milan and Florence and the Vatican Museums.

As a final step in lifting the restrictions, borders will reopen to foreign tourists on Wednesday and Italians will once again be allowed to move freely between the country's regions.

The government has insisted this is one of the most dangerous phases of the pandemic and has urged people to abide by social distancing rules and wear masks to prevent the virus from spreading once again.

According to the latest official daily death toll, 60 people have died from COVID-19 in the last 24 hours and 178 new cases were recorded, the lowest figure since February 26.

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TRAVEL NEWS

Covid face mask rule on flights in Europe set to be eased

The mandatory EU-wide mask requirement for air travel is set to be dropped from Monday, May 16th, but airlines may still require passengers to wear masks on some or all flights

Covid face mask rule on flights in Europe set to be eased

Europe-wide facemask rules on flights are set to be ditched as early as next week in light of new recommendations from health and air safety experts.

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) dropped recommendations for mandatory mask-wearing in airports and during flights in updated Covid-19 safety measures for travel issued on Wednesday, May 11th.

The new rules are expected to be rolled out from Monday, May 16th, but airlines may still continue to require the wearing of masks on some or all of flights. And the updated health safety measures still say that wearing a face mask remains one of the best ways to protect against the transmission of the virus.

The joint EASA/ECDC statement reminded travellers that masks may still be required on flights to destinations in certain countries that still require the wearing of masks on public transport and in transport hubs.

It also recommends that vulnerable passengers should continue to wear a face mask regardless of the rules, ideally an FFP2/N95/KN95 type mask which offers a higher level of protection than a standard surgical mask.

“From next week, face masks will no longer need to be mandatory in air travel in all cases, broadly aligning with the changing requirements of national authorities across Europe for public transport,” EASA executive director Patrick Ky said in the statement. 

“For passengers and air crews, this is a big step forward in the normalisation of air travel. Passengers should however behave responsibly and respect the choices of others around them. And a passenger who is coughing and sneezing should strongly consider wearing a face mask, for the reassurance of those seated nearby.”  

ECDC director Andrea Ammon added: “The development and continuous updates to the Aviation Health Safety Protocol in light of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic have given travellers and aviation personnel better knowledge of the risks of transmission of SARS-CoV-2 and its variants. 

“While risks do remain, we have seen that non-pharmaceutical interventions and vaccines have allowed our lives to begin to return to normal. 

“While mandatory mask-wearing in all situations is no longer recommended, it is important to be mindful that together with physical distancing and good hand hygiene it is one of the best methods of reducing transmission. 

“The rules and requirements of departure and destination states should be respected and applied consistently, and travel operators should take care to inform passengers of any required measures in a timely manner.”

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