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VATICAN

Vatican Museums to reopen after coronavirus closure

The Vatican Museums, including the Sistine Chapel, said they will reopen on Monday 1st February after being closed for 88 days due to coronavirus restrictions -- the longest closure since World War II.

Vatican Museums to reopen after coronavirus closure
The deserted entrance of the closed Vatican Museums in the Vatican, March 2020. The Vatican Museums will reopen on February 1, 2021. Andreas SOLARO / AFP

The world-famous collections will open their doors to the public from Monday to Saturday, but visitors must pre-book tickets and will be given timed entry slots.

Curators used the closure, sparked by Italian government measures introduced to stem the spread of Covid-19, to carry out maintenance and refurbishment works.

That included careful dusting of 15th-century frescoes in the Sistine Chapel, which normally attracts six million visitors a year.

“The Pope's Museums await you with pleasure!” a statement said.

The news comes amid an easing of coronavirus restrictions, with all but five Italian regions put in the low-risk “yellow” category from Monday.

That allows bars and restaurants to reopen during the day, alongside museums.

READ MORE: 'We're bucking the trend': Italy eases Covid rules despite experts' warnings

Rome's Colosseum and the Forum were also set to reopen on Monday, although museums remain closed on weekends under Italy's coronavirus restrictions.

At the moment, only those already in the Lazio region of southern Italy can visit the site.

Italy currently has a complete ban in place on non-essential travel, including for tourism, between all regions regardless of their colour under the country's tiered system of restrictions.

The entire country also remains subject to a night-time curfew, while bars and restaurants must end table service at 6pm in yellow zones and cannot open at all in Italy's remaining orange zones.

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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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