Tourists, rejoice! Italy, Greece ease COVID-19 restrictions

ROME ( Associated Press) – For travelers traveling to Europe, summer vacations have become much easier.

Italy and Greece on Sunday eased some COVID-19 restrictions ahead of Europe’s peak summer tourist season, in a sign that life was rapidly returning to normal.

Greece’s Civil Aviation Authority announced that it is removing all COVID-19 regulations for international and domestic flights, except for the wearing of face masks during flights and at airports. Previously, air travelers were required to show proof of vaccination, a negative test, or a recent recovery from the disease.

As of Sunday, visitors to Italy will no longer have to fill out the EU Passenger Locator Form, a complicated online test required for airport check-in.

Italy also removed the health pass that was required to enter restaurants, cinemas, gyms and other places. Green passes, which showed proof of vaccination, recovery from the virus or recently tested negative, are still required to access hospitals and nursing homes.

.Some indoor mask mandatory also ended in Italy, including inside supermarkets, workplaces and stores. Masks are still required in public transport, cinemas and all health care facilities and nursing homes.

“It was needed,” said Rome resident Claudio Civitelli, sipping his morning coffee in a bar near the Trevi Fountain. Until Sunday, patrons had to wear a mask to enter bars and restaurants, although they could remove them to eat and drink. “We’ve waited more than two years.”

At a nearby table, Andrea Bichler, an Italian tourist from Trentino Alto-Adige, sat with friends without a mask.

“It’s much better,” Bichler said. “Assume it is a return to life, a free life.”

In Greece, where tourism accounts for about 20% of GDP, enforcement of the rules had already stopped before Sunday. On the tourist island of Mykonos, fun-lovers flooded beaches, bars and restaurants last weekend for the Orthodox Easter holiday. Some owners said the business was the best they had seen in years and expected it to continue through the long May Day weekend.

Vaccination certificates in Greece were not permanently abolished, but from May 1 to August 31, and it will be determined in August whether to bring them back. Also, restrictions on the number of customers in the indoor space were suspended. But Greece still requires masks indoors and in vehicles, and experts recommend using them outdoors in crowded situations like concerts.

Business owners said many unrelated people were among those enjoying the end of the COVID-19 restrictions.

“We again saw older customers that we hadn’t seen since November,” when vaccination certificates first became mandatory, Mikhalis Epitropidis, general secretary of the Association of Restaurant, Cafe and Bar Owners in Thessaloniki, told The Associated Press. . “By penalizing unvaccinated, the state was punishing us.”

Greece’s second largest city, Thessaloniki, was the center of a denial of a vaccine by militants and protests against COVID-19 restrictions.

Like Italy, Greece saw tourism revenue decline in 2020 and only partially rebound in 2021. Greece is now expecting a record tourism year in 2022 – and so is neighboring Albania, where restrictions were also lifted on Sunday.

Public health officials say masks are still highly recommended in Italy for all indoor activities, and private companies may still require them.

Given that the virus is still circulating, “we must continue the vaccine campaign, including boosters, and maintain prudence-motivated behavior: indoors or in crowded places or wherever there is a risk of contagion,” masks should wear. In charge of prevention in the Ministry of Health.

Nellas reported from Athens, Greece. Francesco Sportelli contributed from Italy, Costas Kantoris from Thessaloniki, Greece and Lazar Semini from Albania.

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