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Slovenia reopens border with Italy

As coronavirus border restrictions ease across Europe, a nettlesome fence on the Italy-Slovenia border came down on Monday, reuniting a town that had been divided for months.

Slovenia reopens border with Italy
The border fence between Italy and Slovenia was taken down on June 15th. Photo: Jure Makovec/AFP

The mayors of Gorizia in Italy and Nova Gorica in Slovenia cut a symbolic ribbon and hugged each other across the border to mark its full reopening.

READ ALSO: Open borders: Europe's haphazard route to ending travel restrictions

“This is a symbolic day. Both Goricas have overcome the epidemic… and proved they share a common reality, unity,” Nova Gorica Mayor Klemen Miklavic said before removing a section of fence on Europe Square.

“We are like a table with four legs, two are in Italy and two in Slovenia. If we lose two legs, the table can't stand anymore,” added Gorizia Mayor Rodolfo Ziberna.


Mayors Klemen Miklavic (L) and Rodolfo Ziberna cut a ribbon marking the border. Photo: Jure Makovec/AFP

The fence was installed by Slovenian authorities in March after the country closed its borders, and was particularly symbolic as it ran along a part of the old Iron Curtain and evoked unpleasant memories among older residents.

The original “Gorizia wall” only came down in 2004, the year Slovenia joined the European Union, and since then the town has experienced extensive integration, with residents crossing the border daily to shop, commute to work or go to school.

The border closure in March was particularly disruptive for town residents, but neither Rome nor Ljubljana were prepared to give much leeway.

Ziberna said local co-operation had remained excellent, however. “We believe this is a model of collaboration we could export to all of Europe,” he said.


People chat through the border fence in early June. Photo: Jure Makovec/AFP

After declaring the end of the epidemic last month, Slovenia has eased travel restrictions with its neighbours. The border with Italy — one of the countries hardest hit by the virus — was the last to come down, and people were finally allowed to cross into Slovenia on Monday with no restrictions.

READ ALSO: 

Italy has recorded almost 4,000 cases per million inhabitants, while Slovenia has had just over 700. With a population of around two million people, Slovenia has registered just under 1,500 Covid-19 infections and 109 deaths, while more than 34,000 people have died in Italy.

Slovenia now allows restriction-free travel to 19 European countries, though controls remain in place for those arriving from Britain and Sweden among others.

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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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