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Facing its worst recession since World War II, Italy reopened its borders to international travelers Wednesday as part of a larger effort to draw in tourism dollars and give recently reopened businesses an added boost after they were shuttered for nearly three months during the coronavirus lockdown.
But other European nations think Italy’s move is too premature and don’t plan to reopen their borders until June 15. Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio has warned Europe not to treat Italy “like a leper,” as many countries begin to lift travel restrictions on other nations, but not Italy, Agence France-Presse reported.
In the final phase of easing its long coronavirus lockdown, Italy became the first European country to fully open its international borders on Wednesday, dropping the 14-day quarantine requirement for visitors. Italy also resumed high-speed train service between regions for the first time since early March, checking departing passengers’ temperatures as they accessed the tracks
ITALY, FRANCE AND SPAIN EASE LOCKDOWNS AFTER EUROPE’S HOTSPOTS SEE RECORD LOW CORONAVIRUS CASES
Giuseppina Niglio, from Salerno, southern Italy, hugs her children Roberta and Alessandro, students at the Lugano School of music Conservatory in Switzerland, at the Italian-Swiss border, in Ponte Chiasso, Italy, Wednesday, June 3, 2020. Italy opened regional and international borders in the final phase of easing its long coronavirus lockdown, (AP Photo/Antonio Calanni)
“Come to Calabria. There’s only one risk: that you’ll get fat,” President of Calabria Jole Santelli said Sunday, according to AFP, as part of her effort to attract tourists to Italy’s southern region.
The Leonardo da Vinci Airport in Rome was scheduled to handle several thousand passengers on Wednesday – compared to some 110,000 passengers on the same day last year.
There Andrea Monti embraced his girlfriend, Katherina Scherf, in an emotional reunion as she arrived from Duesseldorf, Germany.
“We haven’t seen each other since before the pandemic,’’ Monti told The Associated Press.
Andrea Monti hugs his girlfriend Katherina Scherf who just arrived from Duesseldorf, Germany at Rome’s Fiumicino airport, Wednesday, June 3, 2020. Rome’s Fiumicino airport sprang back to life on Wednesday as Italy opened regional and international borders in the final phase of easing its long coronavirus lockdown, allowing families and loved ones separated by the global pandemic to finally reunite. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)
International flights resumed in three main cities: Milan, Rome and Naples. Republic Day, the Italian national holiday observed Tuesday, usually kicks off the busy summer domestic tourism season.
But tourism attractions in major Italian cities normally rely on international visitors for their revenue. For example, most of the tens of thousands of people who normally stop to see the Leaning Tower of Pisa, Pantheon or Pompeii came from out of the country.
Gondolas in Venice’s canals stand at the ready for any business. The famous “Romeo and Juliet” balcony in Verona also reopened Wednesday and gladiator fans could once any pose for selfies at Rome’s Colosseum, according to AFP.
As Italians are freed to see family members and loved ones separated by lockdown restrictions preventing domestic travel between regions, there still remains a question over how Italians leaving the country will be received in other nations in Europe.
Germany said Wednesday that it plans to lift a travel warning for European countries from June 15 but it may still advise against travel in some cases, for example to Britain if quarantine rules there remain.
Germany issued a warning against all nonessential foreign travel in March. The aim is to change that for Germany’s 26 European Union partners, other countries outside the EU that are part of Europe’s passport-free Schengen travel area, and Britain.
Austria said it is ending border checks with all its neighbors except for Italy, due to lingering concerns about coronavirus infections there, particularly hard-hit Lombardy. Italy’s neighbor, France, is also looking at opening its borders on June 15 — although French citizens who cross over in the meantime are no longer subject to quarantines upon their return.
Cars cross the border station Chiasso Brogeda between Switzerland and Italy, in Chiasso, Switzerland, Wednesday, June 3, 2020. Italy opened its borders to the citizens of the EU and Switzerland this June 3, after the coronavirus lockdown with closed borders and travel restrictions. The slogan on the video screen reads: ‘Welcome to Italy’. (Alessandro Crinari/Keystone via AP)
Switzerland, though it will reopen its borders with Germany, France and Austria on June 15, will not reopen with Italy and warned that anyone who travels there will be subject to certain “health measures” upon their return, according to AFP.
The British government was confirming plans Wednesday to impose a 14-day quarantine for people arriving in the country starting next week, despite pleas from the travel industry to drop the idea and criticism from others that the move comes way too late to tamp down the country’s outbreak.
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Britain is also talking to other countries about setting up “air bridges” that would allow certain countries or regions to be exempted from quarantine rules. British tourists make up a large portion of visitors to Spain and Portugal.
Portuguese Foreign Minister Augusto Santos Silva told the BBC that diplomats from the U.K. and Portugal “will work together in order to guarantee that British tourists coming to Portugal would not be subjected on their return to England to any kind of quarantine.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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