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Italy reopens borders to save tourism industry

Rome (hooly News) – Italy reopens its borders to European tourists Wednesday, a month after the gradual resumption of activity in the country which hopes to approach the summer to save its tourism industry, a key sector of its sapped economy by the pandemic.

Gondolas can sail on the canals of Venice, lovers can play "Romeo and Juliet" on the balcony of Verona and, since Monday, the Coliseum in Rome or the Vatican Museums welcome visitors again.

But tourist sites, such as hoteliers and restaurateurs, fear that tourists will not be this year meeting Italy, one of the European countries most affected by the pandemic where the new coronavirus has made more than 33,500 dead, with Lombardy (north) as the European epicenter of the epidemic.

The government also authorized this Wednesday, June 3, free movement between regions, but the prohibitions on large gatherings and the obligation to wear a mask in enclosed spaces and in public transport remain.

– "Hotspot" –

Sunday, a famous doctor, Alberto Zangrillo, created the controversy by asserting that the virus had disappeared and that it was time to stop unnecessarily "terrorizing" the population, causing an outcry from the authorities and other scientists, some of whom warned against premature authorization of travel between regions and from abroad.

The health crisis "is not over" was warned Tuesday, National Day, the President of the Republic Sergio Mattarella, who praised the "unity" of his country against "the invisible enemy".

On the move to Codogno, a town in Lombardy where the virus had appeared in Italy in mid-February, he called on the country to leave, fortified by the "solidarity and courage" which he showed during these difficult times.

Italy imposed an economic lockdown in early March and has seen the number of infections drop regularly since then. But the country is now facing the worst recession since the Second World War, and has a critical need to see tourists return.

International flights are expected to resume on Wednesday only in three major cities – Milan, Rome and Naples – and the government fears that those who usually come to the peninsula from neighboring countries by car, train or ferry will choose other destinations.

Switzerland has warned that its citizens who travel to Italy from Wednesday will be subject to "health measures" upon their return. It will open its borders with Germany, France and Austria on June 15, but not with Italy.

On June 15, Austria will lift its restrictions with Germany, Switzerland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary but, again, not with Italy, which its Minister of Health described last week as "hotspot".

These Italian-specific measures prompted Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio to warn countries against treating his country "like a leper".

– Devastating effect –

He announced that he would travel to Germany, Slovenia and Greece over the weekend to convince them that Italy is a safe country for tourists. He is due to receive his French counterpart Jean-Yves Le Drian on Wednesday.

People arriving in Italy from Europe will not be required to isolate themselves, unless they have recently traveled from another continent.

Containment measures have had a devastating effect on the Italian tourism sector, which accounts for around 13% of gross domestic product (GDP).

Restaurants, cafes and bathing establishments have slowly reopened in the past two weeks, although the government has said it reserves the right to impose localized closures if the epidemic picks up again.

But only 40 of the 1,200 hotels in Rome have reopened, the Corriere della Sera said on Monday, and only a dozen in Milan, their owners saying it is too expensive to reopen them if they remain empty.

The national tourism agency said that some 40% of Italians usually go abroad for their holidays, but that they could decide to spend their holidays on their land this year, which would help local businesses.

Nothing to comfort the big museums or tourist sites like the Leaning Tower of Pisa, Pompeii or the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, which have reopened their doors in recent days, but are still awaiting the return of their foreign visitors.