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Coronavirus: Italy reopens to tourists from Europe, but neighbors want their citizens to stay away

ROME (AFP) – Italy will reopen on Wednesday (June 3), three months after it lands in the coronavirus lock, for travelers from Europe.

Gondolas are ready to cruise along the canals of Venice, enthusiasts can play “Romeo and Juliet” on Verona’s famous balcony, and gladiator fans can pose for selfies at the Colosseum in Rome.

But it was feared that many foreign tourists would be delayed to come to a country that was still shaking off a vicious pandemic.

“Come to Calabria. There is only one risk: getting fat, “said Southern Region Governor Jole Santelli, Sunday as the race attracted big spenders – or other spenders – to Italy’s sandy beaches.

Italy was the first European country to be severely affected by the coronavirus and has officially reported more than 33,000 deaths.

It imposed an economically crippling closure in early March and the number of infections has declined dramatically since then.

As the country faces the deepest recession since World War II, it needs foreigners to return quickly.

But it still reports dozens of new cases every day, especially in the Northern Lombardy region, and experts warn that the government may be hasty in allowing travel between regions and abroad.

“AS A LEPER”

International flights would only resume in three major cities: Milan, Rome and Naples.

And there was concern that those who usually arrive by car, train or ferry from neighboring countries would go on vacation.

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.

Austria will lift restrictions with Germany, Switzerland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary in mid-June – but again, not Italy, the Viennese health minister described last week as “still a hot spot”.

Other countries, such as Belgium and Great Britain, still advise against or forbid all non-essential travel abroad.

In response to the alleged anti-Italian sentiment, Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio has warned countries not to treat Italy “like a leper”.

He said on Saturday that he would travel to Germany, Slovenia and Greece to convince them that Italy is safe for foreign tourists.

Arrivals in Italy from Europe need not isolate themselves unless they have recently traveled from another continent.

Beachgoers on the coast in Giugliano in Campania, Italy, on May 25, 2020. PHOTO: NYTIMES

TOO EXPENSIVE

The closure of Italy has a particularly devastating effect on the tourism sector, which accounts for approximately 13 percent of gross domestic product (GDP).

Historic sites were closed, restaurants were closed, and hotels were used to care for coronavirus diseases.

Restaurants, cafes and beach facilities have slowly reopened over the past two weeks – although the government has stated that it reserves the right to impose local closings if it sees an increase in contaminants.

But only 40 of Rome’s 1,200 hotels have reopened, Corriere della Sera newspaper said Monday, and only a dozen in Milan. It costs too much to open them if they just remain empty.

“My hoteliers all want to reopen, but as long as the borders remain closed, that is not possible,” said Mr. Marco Michielli, deputy head of the Federalberghi Hotelier Association, Saturday.

Italy’s National Tourist Board (ENIT) said that about 40 percent of Italians traditionally travel abroad for their holidays, but this year could be forced to go on holiday at home and help local businesses.

That may be of little comfort to those who run the country’s precious historical sites, as most of the tens of thousands of visitors who usually come to the Leaning Tower, Pantheon or Pompeii on a daily basis come from abroad.

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