Italy eyes new rules for EU, UK, Israel arrivals mid-May

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Italy had been the world's fifth-most visited destination, but visitor numbers collapsed by more than 60 percent from 2019 to 2020

Italy is hoping to drop the quarantine requirement for visitors from the rest of the European Union, Britain and Israel by mid-May, Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio said on Saturday.

"The aim is to reopen to visitors from foreign countries which have reached a high level of vaccinations, loosening some measures as early as mid-May," he said after talks with Health Minister Roberto Speranza.

"We are working to overcome the 'mini quarantine' for those who come from European countries, the United Kingdom and Israel, if they have a negative test, proof of vaccination or have recovered from coronavirus in the last six months."

The current rules on EU arrivals expire on May 15.

Di Maio said Italy would also be working to increase the number of "Covid-free" flights to and from the United States, and to end the quarantine requirement from June.

Italy began a cautious reopening on April 26 after months of coronavirus restrictions, with bars and restaurants permitted to serve customers outdoors.

The country is desperate for the return of tourists as it seeks to recover from a major recession sparked by the pandemic, but health experts still urge caution.

Italy recorded another 10,000 new cases of Covid-19 on Saturday and 224 deaths, taking the total to more than 122,000 -- the highest rate in the EU.

"I, like I think most Italians, want to reopen, I want people to go back out to work, to have fun, to be together," Prime Minister Mario Draghi told reporters Saturday after an EU summit in Portugal.

"But... we have to do it safely, that is, calculating the risk that we run."

He highlighted the importance of getting the EU's mooted "Green Pass" up and running, which would allow travel within the bloc to those with immunity, vaccinations or a negative coronavirus test.

Italy had been the world's fifth-most visited destination, but visitor numbers collapsed by more than 60 percent from 2019 to 2020.

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