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HEALTH

TRAVEL: Italy will bring back quarantine rule for UK arrivals ‘if necessary’, says PM

Italy is not yet prepared to restrict travel from the UK despite the rise in Covid-19 cases caused by the Delta variant, the prime minister said on Monday.

TRAVEL: Italy will bring back quarantine rule for UK arrivals ‘if necessary’, says PM
Photo: Filippo Monteforte/AFP

**UPDATE: Italy on Friday June 18th announced new quarantine rules for UK arrivals. See the latest news here.**

“We test those who enter Italy. If infections start to rise again, [Italy] too should reinstate the quarantine for those arriving from England. But we’re not there yet,” Prime Minister Mario Draghi said following a press conference at the end of the G7 meeting in the UK, Rai reports.

The British government is set to announce on Monday that a planned easing of lockdown restrictions will be pushed back by four weeks, according to the BBC, amid a rapid rise in cases of the Delta variant first detected in India.

Asked if Italy was also looking at changing its reopening plan this summer, Draghi said: “For now, there’s no reason to think that this will happen.”

READ ALSO: What you need to know if you’re travelling to Italy in summer 2021

“It depends a lot on the contagion rate, if infections should shoot up … but this is not what we’re seeing in other European countries,” he added, pointing out that “Spain and Greece do not require quarantine from England.”

France, Germany, Switzerland and Austria however last month put quarantine rules and other tough travel restrictions back in place for travellers from the UK amid concerns about Delta

Spain on the other hand removed all restrictions for British tourists. From May 24th, UK holidaymakers can visit Spain without the need for any testing or quarantine. 

Italy has banned travel from India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka amid concern over the spread of the Delta variant in those countries.

But, while Italy has not completely dropped rules on UK travel (a negative PCR or antigen test result is still required), the government appears reluctant to put further restrictions in place at the start of the lucrative tourist season.

Travel to Italy from the UK is far from straightforward already, as British ‘amber list’ rules require a ten-day quarantine on arrival from Italy and the purchase of travel-testing kits which cost around £200 per person. There are also fewer flights operating than expected.

Stopping tourism from the UK altogether this summer would cost Italy 1.5 billion euros in lost revenue, according to analysis by Coldiretti, the industry group representing Italian agriculture.

READ ALSO: What Covid-19 tests do I need for travel between Italy and the UK?

Tourism has now restarted in Italy from some countries, including the UK: Photo: Andrea Pattaro/AFP

Italian health officials had previously said they believed vaccines may be able to mitigate the impact of Delta and any other new strains of coronavirus.

Italian deputy health minister Pierpaolo Sileri told Radio 24 in late May that he was not worried about the Indian variant for two reasons: “The first is that there is no evidence that it is resistant to vaccines, and the second, more general, is that research has made great strides in creating safe and effective vaccines.”

“Even if a variant emerged that could partially resist them, we would be able to respond,” he said.

However, in the UK, public health officials are now concerned about the Delta variant because it “partially evades vaccines, is at least 40% more transmissible than the Alpha variant, and appears to double the risk of hospitalisation”, the BBC reports.

READ ALSO: Europe remains at risk of autumn Covid resurgence, WHO warns

Though Italy’s vaccination campaign has accelerated and improved in recent months, only around one quarter of the population is fully immunised at the moment, the latest government data shows.

In Italy, 172 cases are known to have been caused by the Delta variant so far according to the Gisaid database. Alpha (or B.1.1.7)  is still the dominant variant, accounting for some 93 percent of cases in the country according to the latest Italian government data.

However, Italy collects and analyses far less data on new virus strains than the UK does, meaning that the picture in Italy is incomplete and it’s hard to compare information from the two countries.

So far in Italy only 1.11% of all positive swab tests have been sequenced to identify the strain.

For more information on international travel to and from Italy, see the Foreign Ministry’s website.

Please note The Local is not able to give advice on individual cases.

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VENICE

EXPLAINED: Whatever happened to Venice’s ‘tourist tax’?

Venice’s long-discussed plan to charge day-trippers for access to the city was meant to come into effect in January, but, three years after the original proposal, the project has once again fallen into administrative quicksand.

EXPLAINED: Whatever happened to Venice’s ‘tourist tax’?

For an island surrounded by shallow waters and countless shoals, it sure seems oddly fitting that Venice’s long-discussed ‘tourist tax’ system continues to be hopelessly stranded. 

First mooted in 2019, the idea to impose an entry fee on all day-trippers to regulate visitors’ inflow and supposedly solve the city’s overcrowding problems had been delayed by the second-worst flooding in Venice’s history first and by the Covid-19 pandemic after.

But all the pieces seemed to have finally fallen into place earlier this year, with Venice expected to get its much-touted tourism regulation system up and running by January 16th, 2023. 

However, in what will hardly come as a surprise to anyone even remotely familiar with the project’s troubled history, the city administration has recently hit another snag and the entry-fee saga will now continue well into the new year. 

While Venice’s comune (town hall) has vaguely attributed the latest deferral to the need to “change and improve” the project, a number of longstanding issues seem to have bogged down the city’s plan once more. 

A gondola right in front of Venice's Doge Palace

Under Venice’s new tourism regulation system, day-trippers will have to pay an entry fee of three to ten euros to access the city centre. Photo by Laurent EMMANUEL / AFP

Firstly, a good deal of confusion still lingers over who exactly will be exempted from paying the entry fee (contributo d’accesso), which will range from three to ten euros based on the day and time of the year. 

While tourists staying in the city overnight, residents, second-home owners and those studying or working in Venice have long been identified as exempt categories, local authorities have never quite clarified what their plans were in relation to people living in other Veneto provinces. 

READ ALSO: Reader question: How will Venice’s tourist tax affect second-home owners? 

And, according to the latest media reports, a squabble between Venice’s administration and regional authorities over the status of Veneto residents – the region is reportedly pushing for a full exemption, which Venice seems to oppose for now – may have been the main reason behind the latest stand-off. 

But a clearer definition of the plan’s exemptions isn’t the only outstanding item in the city’s to-do list, not by a long shot. 

The administration’s failure to reach an agreement with local transport operators and port authorities over the enforcement of the new rules has largely contributed to the latest delay, and so have issues related to the planned online booking platform.

In particular, the comune had pledged earlier this year that the website allowing day-trippers to book and pay for their visit to the city would be ready by the end of 2022, but, with less than a month to go until the new year, no announcement has been made on the subject so far. 

Tourist sitting in a cafè by Rialto Bridge in Venice

Due to a number of structural issues, the introduction of Venice’s entry fee system is now expected to happen over the course of next year’s summer. Photo by Marco BERTORELLO / AFP

It is perhaps telling in this sense that the city’s still in the process of asking residents for comments and suggestions on the entry fee plan – the web page meant to record locals’ feedback on the project went live on Tuesday, December 6th and will remain available until January 7th.

READ ALSO: Moving to Italy: How much does it really cost to live in Venice?

So, as Venice’s administration works to solve the current issues and improve the plan based on residents’ input, when could we expect to see the system in operation?

Well, any changes made to the original project will have to be first approved by the city’s council (Consiglio Comunale), after which it’ll take months – perhaps, as many as six – to get the system ready to go. 

This means that, even if the council somehow managed to approve the new plan by the end of the year, the project’s trial stages could only start next summer, with the local Feast of the Redeemer (Festa del Redentore) on July 15th potentially being the first real test bench for the whole system. 

That said, given the project’s not-so-promising history, it’d be hard for anyone to bank on it.

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