Italy reopens to tourists from Europe

There were fears many foreign tourists would be put off coming to Italy still shaking off a vicious pandemic. (Reuters)
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Updated 03 June 2020

Italy reopens to tourists from Europe

  • Italy was the first European country to be hit hard by the coronavirus
  • International flights were only expected to resume in three main cities: Milan, Rome and Naples

ROME: Italy reopened to travelers from Europe on Wednesday, three months after the country went into coronavirus lockdown, with all hopes pinned on reviving the key tourism industry as the summer season begins.
Gondolas were ready to punt along Venice’s canals, lovers will be able to act out “Romeo and Juliet” on Verona’s famed balcony, and gladiator fans can pose for selfies at Rome’s Colosseum.
But there were fears many foreign tourists would be put off coming to a country still shaking off a vicious pandemic.
“Come to Calabria. There’s only one risk: that you’ll get fat,” the southern region’s governor Jole Santelli said on Sunday as the race began to lure big spenders — or any spenders — back to Italy’s sandy shores.
Italy was the first European country to be hit hard by the coronavirus and has officially reported more than 33,000 deaths.
It imposed an economically crippling lockdown in early March and has since seen its contagion numbers drop off dramatically.
With the country facing its deepest recession since World War II, it needs foreigners to return, and quickly.
But it is still reporting hundreds of new cases a day, particularly in the northern Lombardy region, and experts warn the government may be being hasty in permitting travel between regions and abroad.
“We hoped to see some movement from today, but have no foreign tourists booked in for this week or next,” said Alessandra Conti, receptionist at the Albergo del Senato hotel which overlooks the Pantheon in Rome.
“We’ve got a few reservations from mid-June ... (but) are still getting lots of cancelations for this summer.”
International flights were only expected to resume in three main cities: Milan, Rome and Naples.
And there were concerns that those who usually come in by car, train or ferry from neighboring countries would go elsewhere on their holidays.
Switzerland has warned its citizens that if they go to Italy they will be subject to “health measures” on their return. The country will open its borders with Germany, France and Austria on June 15, but not with Italy.
Austria is lifting restrictions in mid-June with Germany, Switzerland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary — but again, not Italy, described last week by Vienna’s health minister as “still a hotspot.”
Other countries, such as Belgium and Britain, are still advising against, or forbidding, all non-essential travel abroad.
In response to perceived anti-Italian sentiment, Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio has warned countries not to treat Italy “like a leper.”
He said Saturday he would be traveling to Germany, Slovenia and Greece to persuade them Italy is safe for foreign tourists.
Arrivals in Italy from Europe will not be required to self-isolate unless they have recently traveled from another continent.
At the border between the town of Ventimiglia in Italy and Menton in France, more people were trying to enter France from Italy than the other way round early Wednesday, but controls on the French side were very strict.
“The situation is a bit complex. There is a total reopening of the Italian borders, but the situation is not the same on the French side,” a police source said, as drivers stuck in long queues sounded their horns.
Italy’s lockdown has had a particularly devastating effect on the tourism sector, which amounts to some 13 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
Historic sites were shut, restaurants closed, and hotels were used to care for coronavirus sick.
Restaurants, cafes and beach establishments have slowly reopened over the past two weeks — although the government has said it reserves the right to impose localized lockdowns if it sees contagion numbers rise.
But only 40 of Rome’s 1,200 hotels have reopened, the Corriere della Sera newspaper said Monday, and just a dozen in Milan. It costs too much to open them if they will just stand empty.
“My hoteliers all want to reopen, but as long as the borders remain closed, it’s not possible,” Marco Michielli, deputy head of hoteliers’ association Federalberghi, said Saturday.
Italy’s national tourism agency (ENIT) said some 40 percent of Italians traditionally travel abroad for their holidays, but could be forced this year to vacation at home, helping local businesses.
That may be little comfort to those running the country’s costly historic sites, because most of the tens of thousands of visitors that usually flock daily to the Tower of Pisa, Pantheon or Pompeii come from abroad.

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Furore after Indian police shoot gangster dead

Updated 51 min 52 sec ago

Furore after Indian police shoot gangster dead

  • Officials said Dubey was shot as he tried to escape a police vehicle while being driven to his home city
  • Rights lawyers alleged that police killed Dubey to prevent him revealing his connections with powerful people

LUCKNOW: Indian police shot dead one of the country's most wanted gangsters on Friday just a day after his dramatic arrest, sparking accusations of a staged extrajudicial killing.
Officials said Vikas Dubey, detained for the killing of eight police officers, was shot as he tried to escape a police vehicle while being driven to his home city in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh.
Within hours of TV stations carrying images of his bloodstained body lying in a hospital, rights lawyers and activists alleged that police had killed Dubey to prevent him revealing his connections with powerful people.
"This is the most blatant case of extra-judicial killing. Dubey was a gangster terrorist who may have deserved to die. But (Uttar Pradesh) police have killed him to shut his mouth," Supreme Court lawyer Prashant Bhushan wrote on Twitter.
"Will we allow police to kill anyone without a court trial?" Utsav Bains, another Supreme Court lawyer, added.
Senior opposition Congress party leader Priyanka Gandhi said the people "protecting" Dubey were still free and called for a judicial probe into the killing.
Dubey, aged about 50, was accused of more than 60 murders, attempted murders and other crimes. He was said to have shot dead an Uttar Pradesh state minister inside a police station in 2001.
Despite those cases and his reputation for ruthlessness, Dubey has built considerable local political links over the past two decades.
On July 3, eight officers were gunned down when his gang staged an ambush on a police team aiming to arrest him.
A nationwide manhunt was launched, during which five of Dubey's associates -- including his bodyguard nephew -- were killed.
Police said he was tipped off about the deadly raid by local officers, some of whom have been arrested for leaking information to the gangster.
He finally gave himself up in a temple in Madhya Pradesh state on Thursday.
According to the police account, the car transporting him early Friday overturned on a wet road in neighbouring Uttar Pradesh and he tried to escape.
"Dubey has been killed in an exchange of fire after he snatched the pistol of our men and tried to flee after firing at them. Four of our men are also injured," Kanpur police inspector general Mohit Agarwal told reporters.
Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath, a senior member of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party, has publicly endorsed police killings as a "deterrent" to crime.
Yogi's government has pledged to root out crime from the state and his tenure has coincided with a surge in the number of criminals dying in police shootouts.
"Encounter killings" have a long history India and for decades shootouts were staged to bypass India's judicial system when police battled armed separatist movements in West Bengal, Punjab, Kashmir and elsewhere.
"History repeats," Nirjhari Sinha, a civil rights leader from western Gujarat state, wrote on Twitter in response to Dubey's death.
"Dead gangsters can't speak about their political patronage."
More recently, suspects accused of violent crimes have died in custody.
Last year, police in southern India shot dead four men accused in the horrific rape and murder of a 27-year-old woman.