ROME • Italy reopened to travellers from Europe yesterday, three months after the country went into coronavirus lockdown, with all hopes pinned on reviving the key tourism industry as the summer season begins.

Gondolas were ready to punt along Venice’s canals, lovers will be able to act out Romeo And Juliet on Verona’s famed balcony and gladiator fans can pose for selfies at Rome’s Colosseum.

But there are fears that many foreign tourists will put off visi-ting a country still shaking off a vicious pandemic.

“We hoped to see some movement from today, but have no foreign tourists booked in for this week or next,” said Ms Alessandra Conti, a receptionist at the Albergo del Senato hotel which overlooks the Pantheon in Rome.

“We have got a few reserva-tions from mid-June… (but) are still getting lots of cancellations for this summer.”

Italy was the first European country to be hit hard by the coronavirus and has officially reported more than 33,500 deaths – the third-highest toll in the world.

It imposed an economically crippling lockdown in early March and has since seen its infection numbers drop dramatically.

With the country facing its deepest recession since World War II, it needs foreign tourists to return – and quickly.

But it is still reporting hundreds of new cases a day, particularly in the northern Lombardy region, and experts warn that the government may be moving too quickly in permitting travel between regions and from abroad.

Infectious diseases expert Massimo Galli said it would have been better to wait until next month to reopen borders.

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The coronavirus “smoulders under the ashes, and when it finds the ideal conditions, it explodes. Even more so if we lower our guard”, he said yesterday.

NO FOREIGN TOURISTS

We hoped to see some movement from today, but have no foreign tourists booked in for this week or next… We have got a few reservations from mid-June… (but) are still getting lots of cancellations for this summer.

RECEPTIONIST ALESSANDRA CONTI of the Albergo del Senato hotel, which overlooks the Pantheon in Rome.

PINNING HOPES ON LOCALS

Who is going to come?

No one from South America, China or the US. And the Europeans will be scared… We are pinning all our hopes on Italian tourists, but… I am afraid they will go to the seaside instead.

MR MIMMO BURGIO, owner of a cafe near Rome’s Colosseum.

International flights into Milan, Rome and Naples have increased, with a few also arriving at smaller, regional airports.

There were concerns that those who usually enter Italy by car, train or ferry from neighbouring countries would go elsewhere on their holidays.

Switzerland has warned its citizens that if they go to Italy, they will be subject to “health measures” on their return. The country will open its borders with Germany, France and Austria on June 15, but not with Italy.

Other countries, such as Belgium and Britain, are still advising against or forbidding all non-essential travel abroad.

Arrivals in Italy from Europe will not be required to self-isolate unless they have recently travelled from another continent.

Germany said yesterday it will lift a travel ban on European Union member states plus Britain, Iceland, Norway, Liechtenstein and Switzerland from June 15, as long as there are no entry bans or large-scale lockdowns in those countries.

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Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said the travel warning would be replaced with guidelines, adding that Germans would be urged not to make non-essential trips to Britain while a 14-day quarantine is in place.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS





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