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Italy is ready to welcome vaccinated tourists — and it's aiming to do so before the rest of the European Union. Following Tuesday's Group of 20 (G20) meeting of tourism ministers, Italian prime minister Mario Draghi announced that the country will be introducing a pass to allow in visitors who meet the criteria in a few weeks.
"Let us not wait until mid-June for the EU pass," Draghi said, according to Skift. "In mid-May, tourists can have the Italian pass… so the time has come to book your holidays in Italy."
Last month, the European Commission announced plans to allow Americans inoculated with approved vaccines — including Moderna, Pfizer/BioNTech, and Johnson & Johnson — to visit its 27 member states this summer. Though specifics about Italy's pass have yet to be disclosed, Draghi's statement puts the nation ahead of that timeline by a month. He also added that those who have just tested negative or are able to show they recently recovered from COVID-19 can also travel.
Miguel Medina/Getty Images People wearing protective masks walk across the Piazza del Duomo in Milan on October 17, 2020, amid the Covid-19 pandemic. - Italy's government has made it mandatory to wear face protection outdoors, in an attempt to counter the spread of the coronavirus Covid-19 pandemic.
The news is a dramatic shift in a nation where lockdown restrictions are still widely in place. In the regions of Lazio (where Rome is located) and Lombardy (where Milan is located), yellow zone restrictions mean there's still a curfew between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. While movement between the yellow and white zones is permitted, several regions — including Puglia, Sicily, Aosta Valley, and Sardinia — are still in the orange and red zones, which doesn't allow people to travel outside of their areas.
Draghi, who served as the chair of the G20 meeting, also said that the EU needs to come up with simple and clear rules for its reopening. In a statement from the meeting, the leaders said that the pandemic had given the industry a chance to "rethink tourism" with "safe international mobility initiatives," and that "the resumption of travel and tourism was crucial for global economic recovery," Skift reported. Italy usually generates 13% of its economy from tourism, so with global tourism dropping 73% worldwide in 2020, the impact has been a gut punch.
The CDC currently has Italy at a Level 4 "Very High Level of COVID-19" advisory, stating that "because of the current situation in Italy, even fully vaccinated travelers may be at risk for getting and spreading COVID-19 variants and should avoid all travel to Italy." Since the beginning of the pandemic, Italy has had 4,059,821 COVID-19 cases and 121,738 deaths, making it the eighth-highest nation in the world for cases, according to data from the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center.