Italy keeps travel ban in place as EU opens borders

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Most EU countries have agreed to reopen their external borders on July 1st to visitors from 15 countries – but Italy will be keeping its travel ban in place. Here’s what you need to know.

The EU 27 member states on Tuesday agreed on a list of 15 countries whose citizens would be allowed to travel to European Union from July 1st.

But later on Tuesday Italy, which had seemed to be in favour of reopening, announced it would not be lifting its ban on travel from outside Europe.

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The 15 non-EU countries on the “safe list” are: Algeria, Australia, Canada, Georgia, Japan, Montenegro, Morocco, New Zealand, Rwanda, Serbia, South Korea, Thailand, Tunisia and Uruguay.

The list of safe countries also now provisionally includes China, although certain conditions have to be met, but it does not include the US, Brazil, India or Russia. 

Within hours of the EU’s announcement, Italian authorities said the country would opt out of the plan, and would be keeping quarantine rules in place for travellers coming from outside the bloc.“The global situation remains very complex,” stated Italian Health Minister Roberto Speranza. “We must prevent the sacrifices made by Italians in recent months being in vain.” Italy, which has suffered one of the highest Covid-19 death tolls in the world and was the first country to impose lockdown, now appears to have the spread of the virus under control. The number of new cases and deaths continues to steadily decline, as authorities reported 143 new cases on Tuesday.

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There are widespread concerns that reopening external borders now would “spark a new chain of contagion,” writes Italian newspaper La Repubblica.  “For this reason, Italy is keeping the mandatory quarantine rule for all those arriving from a non-EU nation, even if they have passed through another internal Schengen country,” it said. Italy has allowed free movement to and from EU and Schengen zone countries, including the UK, since June 3rd. This will not change, Speranza confirmed. But travel from outside this area will remain restricted, with Italian authorities reportedly concerned about non-EU travellers arriving in Italy via other Schengen countries, which is possible due to freedom of movement rules within the Schengen zone. “Rome wants to avoid closing to travel from Schengen, which would completely damage the summer tourism season,” La Repubblica writes.

Instead, the government is reportedly considering police checks “other than those at the borders, such as checks in hotels: if it is found that a person has arrived from a non-EU country, they will have to remain in quarantine for two weeks,” Repubblica writes. Italy may not be alone in refusing to allow non-EU travel from July 1st, as border control remains a  national competence and is not decided at EU level.

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