Italy keeps travel rules in place as EU opens borders

Most EU countries have agreed to reopen their external borders on July 1st to visitors from 15 countries - but Italy will be keeping some restrictions in place. Here's what you need to know.

Italy keeps travel rules in place as EU opens borders
Italian border police check a passenger arriving at Rome's Fiumicino airport. Photo: AFP

The EU 27 member states on Tuesday agreed on a list of 15 countries whose citizens would be allowed to travel to European Union from July 1st.

But later on Tuesday Italy, which had earlier seemed in favour of reopening, announced it would not be lifting all restrictions on travel from outside Europe.

Unlike most European countries, Italy opted out of allowing unrestricted travel from these countries on the “safe list”. Though they may now be allowed to enter for non-essential reasons, Italy still requires residents of those countries to undergo quarantine on arrival.

The 15 non-EU countries on the “safe list” are: Algeria, Australia, Canada, Georgia, Japan, Montenegro, Morocco, New Zealand, Rwanda, Serbia, South Korea, Thailand, Tunisia and Uruguay.

The list of safe countries also now provisionally includes China, although certain conditions have to be met, but it does not include the US, Brazil, India or Russia. 

READ ALSO:  EU agrees to reopen borders to 15 countries – but excludes US from safe travel list

Within hours of the EU's announcement, Italian authorities said the country would opt out of allowing unrestricted travel from these countries, and would be keeping the current quarantine rules in place for travellers coming from outside the bloc.

“The global situation remains very complex,” stated Italian Health Minister Roberto Speranza. “We must prevent the sacrifices made by Italians in recent months being in vain.”
This means that, while residents of those countries may be allowed to enter Italy, they will still have to undergo quarantine for 14 days on arrival.
Italy, which has suffered one of the highest Covid-19 death tolls in the world and was the first country to impose lockdown, now appears to have the spread of the virus under control. The number of new cases and deaths continues to steadily decline, as authorities reported 143 new cases on Tuesday.
Italy's national lockdown lasted almost three months after it was the first western country to suffer a Covid-19 outbreak. Photo: AFP
There are widespread concerns that reopening external borders now would “spark a new chain of contagion,” writes Italian newspaper La Repubblica
“For this reason, Italy is keeping the mandatory quarantine rule for all those arriving from a non-EU nation, even if they have passed through another internal Schengen country,” it said.
Italy has allowed free movement to and from EU and Schengen zone countries, including the UK, since June 3rd. This will not change, Speranza confirmed.
But travel from outside this area will remain restricted, with Italian authorities reportedly concerned about non-EU travellers arriving in Italy via other Schengen countries, which is possible due to freedom of movement rules within the Schengen zone.
“Rome wants to avoid closing to travel from Schengen, which would completely damage the summer tourism season,” La Repubblica writes.
Instead, the government is reportedly considering police checks “other than those at the borders, such as checks in hotels: if it is found that a person has arrived from a non-EU country, they will have to remain in quarantine for two weeks,” Repubblica writes.
The Italian government has not given any indication of how long it expects the travel ban to remain in place. It has however been reviewing lockdown rules every few weeks since lockdown began to ease at the beginning of May.
The EU said it would be reviewing the list lof safe countries every two weeks.
Italy may not be alone in refusing to allow unrestricted non-EU travel from July 1st, as border control remains a  national competence and is not decided at EU level.

A statement from European Council on Tuesday read: “The Council today adopted a recommendation on the gradual lifting of the temporary restrictions on non-essential travel into the EU. Travel restrictions should be lifted for countries listed in the recommendation, with this list being reviewed and, as the case may be, updated every two weeks.

Countries like France and Germany have along with the Commission stressed the need for a “common and coordinated approach” and don't want individual states going it alone.

The Commission has also made it clear the continued restrictions after July 1st wouldn't apply to EU nationals, those from Schengen area countries (Switzerland, Norway, Iceland) or non-EU nationals and family members who have their main residence in Europe “regardless of whether or not they are returning home”.

The Council's statement said: “For countries where travel restrictions continue to apply, the following categories of people should be exempted from the restrictions:

  • EU citizens and their family members
  • long-term EU residents and their family members
  • travellers with an essential function or need

Member comments

  1. Thanks for this article, which is much more useful than the more generalized reports coming out in other media. You are fulfilling a need!

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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.”