If you’re planning to travel to Italy, here’s what you’ll need to know and expect if you want to visit during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Italy is currently in a state of emergency until April 30 (extended from January 31) due to the pandemic.
After being hard hit in the early stages of the first wave, the country was one of the first to reopen to visitors in June, although entry is largely limited to European Union residents.
The pandemic has caused political upheaval, with prime minister Giuseppe Conte, who had won plaudits for his handling of the crisis, resigning on January 26. He was replaced by economist Mario Draghi on February 13.
What’s on offer in Italy
This is one of Europe’s big hitters, known for its historic cities of art such as Florence, one-off wonders like Venice and the seat of the Roman Catholic Church in Rome.
Incredible food, fantastic wine, unspoiled countryside and a string of beach resorts mean it’s always in demand.
Who can go
Following what was essentially a lockdown with border closure over the holiday period, the borders have now reopened.
Countries currently allowed in, with quarantine, are divided into two lists:
Low risk countries are Australia, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea, Rwanda, Singapore and Thailand. Residents of those countries are allowed unrestricted entry, however they must self-isolate for 14 days on arrival at a place of their choice, and must not take public transport to their destination.
Also allowed are arrivals from most of Europe: Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Croatia, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Czech Republic, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Hungary, Iceland, Norway, Liechtenstein, Andorra, Monaco and Switzerland. Arrivals from these countries must produce a negative Covid-19 test result taken within 48 hours of arrival, and must report to the local health authorities on arrival.
Austria is the only EU country not on the list. Anyone who has been there in the past 14 days, or transited through for more than 12 hours, must not only present a negative test taken within 48 hours of arrival and another on arrival, but must quarantine for 14 days, with another mandatory test at the end of the period.
Arrivals from the United Kingdom (other than Italian residents or those with urgent needs) are banned indefinitely, and nobody who has been in or transited through Brazil in the last 14 days may enter Italy before March 5.
Tourism is not currently allowed from any other country, including the United States. Since overnight stays must be registered with the authorities, there’s no chance of sneaking in via a secondary country.
What are the restrictions?
Arrivals from Europe must provide a negative PCR test result taken within 48 hours of their arrival. They are also required to fill in a self-declaration form and report to the local health authorities. Anyone arriving without a negative test result must quarantine for 14 days, regardless of any negative tests taken on arrival.
Those from the approved countries outside Europe must self-isolate for 14 days on arrival.
Any arrivals traveling for essential reasons, from countries which are normally barred from entry, must quarantine for 14 days on arrival.
Because of the new variant, flights were banned between Italy and the UK until January 6, and only residents and Italian nationals are allowed to make the journey from the UK until March 5. Those who do enter, however, must provide a negative PCR test taken within 48 hours of entry, and must undergo a second test either on arrival or within 48 hours of arrival. They must then quarantine for 14 days.
The rules will next be revised on March 5.
What’s the Covid-19 situation?
As the first hit European country, Italy has been through a lot. However, a strict lockdown brought things under control and it held out against a second wave for longer than its European neighbors. However, cases started rising in September and spiking sharply in October. It holds Europe’s second highest death toll (after the UK), with nearly 3 million infections and over 98,000 deaths as of March 3. After a strict Christmas and New Year lockdown, case numbers were going down in January, but have started to rise again in February.
App Immuni uses Bluetooth to track contact with potential infection.
What can visitors expect
Non-essential travel between towns and regions is not allowed. This was a rule brought in for the holiday period, but has been repeatedly extended. One of Prime Minister Mario Draghi’s first acts was to renew the ban, meaning the earliest it will be relaxed is March 27.
Italy’s state of emergency has delegated power to individual regions, so it depends where you are. But across the country, masks must be worn at all times in public, even outside.
On November 6, the country was divided into zones, depending on infection levels: red, orange and yellow. In January 2021, they created a fourth tier: a white zone. On February 27, Sardinia became the first region to qualify.
In yellow zones (lowest case numbers), bars and restaurants close at 6 p.m.; restaurant groups are limited to six people. Local festivals have been banned, and theaters, cinemas and gyms are closed. Shopping centers are closed at weekends. Museums, however, reopened January 16, but are closed on weekends. Bars must not sell takeaway drinks after 6 p.m. in an effort to avoid people congregating, although restaurants and bars which sell food can over takeaway services. People can travel once per day, within their own region.
In orange zones (higher risk), restaurants and bars are closed for eating in, but can offer takeaway. Regional borders are closed. People can move freely within their own towns, but cannot leave their area unless for work or an emergency.
In red zones (highest risk), all shops are closed other than grocery stores and pharmacies. People may only leave their homes only for work, health reasons or to go to a place of worship.
In both red and orange zones, people can travel once per day, but only within their comune, or town borough. If the comune is small (fewer than 5,000 inhabitants) they can travel within a 30 kilometer radius, though not to the provincial capital.
White zones are almost back to normal, qualifying as extremely low risk — where there are under 50 cases per 100,000 inhabitants. These areas are exempt from restrictions, but regions can bring in their own rules.
From February 27, the designations are as follows.
Molise and Basilicata are red, along with several individual towns in regions including Tuscany and Umbria.
Abruzzo, Campania, Emilia Romagna, Lombardy, Marche, Piedmont, Tuscany, Umbria, and the autonomous provinces of Bolzano and Trento are orange.
There are just eight yellow zones: Calabria, Friuli Venezia Giulia, Lazio, Liguria, Puglia, Sicily, Val d’Aosta and Veneto.
That leaves Sardinia, which becomes Italy’s first white zone. However, the regional government has kept the nightly curfew, moving it back to 11.30 p.m. Bars must close at 9 p.m, and restaurants by 11 p.m. Social distancing is still mandatory.
The ski season was slated to start on February 15, but the day before, Draghi’s new government delayed it to March 5. With many ski areas located in orange zones, it remains to be seen if the season will start as planned.
Other than in white zones, the 10 p.m. curfew remains countrywide until further notice, and nowhere can bars sell takeaway drinks after 6 p.m.
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