Category Archives: travel

Malta Airport may open June 15

Malta airport could reopen on 15 June but decision still depends on agreement granted by the health authorities the Tourism Minister Julia Farrugia Portelli indicated.

Farrugia Portelli said the Prime Minister will be announcing an official date for reopening the airport in the coming days.

The target date has been set earlier, and all stakeholders agreed that a confirmation is needed as soon as possible, she continued.

“We have always said the airport should be closed until 15 June but we will continue assessing this with the health authorities,” she said on TVM’s Xtra on May 28 night programme, pointing to the government intention of mid-June reopening.

Farrugia Portelli underlined that there will be a summer vacation possible for the guests of the archipelago country.

“It will be a safer summer than ever before,” she said, adding that safety protocols will be introduced once the airport reopens.

Tourism operators have been waiting for the reopening of the airport and lifting of travel restrictions to encourage tourism, contributing to about 15% of the nation’s gross domestic product (GDP). All travel came to standstill when the COVID-19 pandemic reached Malta in March.

Malta medical experts have established 616 cases, 501 patients received treatment and recovered, but still 108 cases remain active. Seven from COVID-19 infections resulted in related deaths.

COVID19: EU tourism re-launch

Commission presented a package of guidelines and recommendations to help Member States gradually lift travel restrictions and allow tourism businesses to reopen, after months of lockdown, while respecting necessary health precautions.

The Commission’s guidance aims to offer people the chance to get some well-needed rest, relaxation and fresh air. As soon as the health situation allows, people should be able to catch up with friends and family, in their own EU country or across borders, with all the safety and precautionary measures needed in place.

The package also aims to help the EU tourism sector recover from the pandemic, by supporting businesses and ensuring that Europe continues to be the number one destination for visitors.

The Commission’s Tourism and Transport package includes:

An overall strategy towards recovery in 2020 and beyond;
A common approach to restoring free movement and lifting restrictions at EU internal borders in a gradual and coordinated way;
A framework to support the gradual re-establishment of transport whilst ensuring the safety of passengers and personnel;
A recommendation which aims to make travel vouchers an attractive alternative to cash reimbursement for consumers;
Criteria for restoring tourism activities safely and gradually and for developing health protocols for hospitality establishments such as hotels.

Schengen area restriction prolongation

Today the Commission invited Schengen Member States and Schengen Associated States to extend the temporary restriction on non-essential travel to the EU for another 30 days, until 15 June. While some EU and Schengen Associated States are taking preliminary steps towards easing the measures for fighting the spread of the pandemic, the situation remains fragile both in Europe and worldwide. This calls for continued measures at the external borders to reduce the risk of the disease spreading through travel to the EU. The lifting of travel restrictions should be phased: as underlined in the Joint European Roadmap on lifting containment measures, internal border controls will need to start being lifted gradually and in a coordinated manner before restrictions at the external borders can be relaxed in a second stage.

:“The overall objective of limiting the spread of coronavirus via reduced social interaction remains. Despite progress in many European countries, the situation worldwide is very fragile. It is imperative that any action taken is gradual, with different measures being lifted in different phases” Vice-President for Promoting our European Way of Life, Margaritis Schinas, said.

“We need a phased and coordinated approach. Restoring the normal functioning of the Schengen area of free movement is our first objective as soon as the health situation allows it. Restrictions on free movement and internal border controls will need to be lifted gradually before we can remove restrictions at the external borders and guarantee access to the EU for non-EU residents for non-essential travel” Commissioner for Home Affairs, Ylva Johansson underlined.

The travel restriction, as well as the invitation to extend it, applies to the ‘EU+ area’, which includes all Schengen Member States (including Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, and Romania) and the 4 Schengen Associated States (Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland) – 30 countries in total. The Commission calls for a continued coordinated approach to the prolongation, as action at the external borders can only be effective if implemented by all EU and Schengen States at all borders, with the same end date and in a uniform manner.

The Commission will continue to assist Member States in implementing the restriction on non-essential travel to the EU, including through regular videoconference meetings with Home Affairs Ministers. Any further prolongation of the travel restriction beyond 15 June 2020 would need to be assessed again, based on the evolution of the epidemiological situation.

The Commission invited Heads of State or Government on 16 March 2020 to introduce a temporary restriction on non-essential travel to the EU for an initial period of 30 days. On 8 April, the Commission called for prolonging the travel restriction until 15 May. All EU Member States (except Ireland) and non-EU Schengen countries have since taken national decisions to implement and prolong this travel restriction.

To assist Member States, the Commission presented on 30 March 2020 guidance on how to implement the temporary travel restriction, facilitate repatriations from across the world, and deal with those compelled to stay in the EU longer than they are authorised to as a result of travel restrictions.

The travel restriction does not apply to EU citizens, citizens of non-EU Schengen countries and their family members, and non-EU nationals who are long-term residents in the EU for the purpose of returning home. In addition, to limit to the minimum the impact of the restriction on the functioning of our societies, Member States should not apply the restrictions to specific categories of travellers with an essential function or need. Essential staff, such as doctors, nurses, healthcare workers, researchers and experts helping to cope with the coronavirus, as well as persons carrying goods, frontier workers and seasonal agricultural workers, should also continue to be allowed to enter the EU.

COVID19: Venice welcomes swans

In times of COVID19 pandemic Venice, one of Italy’s most famous tourist attractions, which usually receives visitors throughout the year, notices some positive effects of the imposed quarantine.

Right now, though, the whole country is under lockdown as coronavirus continues to spread, and locals in Venice have pointed out that the water in the city’s canals has become much clearer, with small fish visible swimming around, and swans enjoying calm.

Several internautes have uploaded photos to a Facebook group called Venezia Pulita (Clean Venice), attracting comments from many users worldwide.

The coronavirus crisis arrived, initially cutting short the February Carnival, which traditionally opens the tourist season. Now, along with the rest of Italy, the entire city is in lockdown, with restaurants and bars shuttered, hotels closed, flights and international trains suspended. Although many locals enjoy the view of swans and fish, the Venetians whose livelihoods rely on tourism express concerns about the situation.

Some hope that the Draconian measures of the government will deliver the desirable effects soon, and tourists will be allowed in the city in August.

Instead of cancellation the Biennale of Architecture has made a decision to postpone its opening from May until August to give an opportunity to the visitors to re-schedule the trip instead of reconsidering their visit to Venice.

Planning art shows always begins months in advance, and with the important heritage Venice has as an artistic and cultural city which stays a magnet for generations to come, however it is increasingly difficult for the businesses, dependent on tourisme to make ends meet.

Ukraine tourists vandalised Vatican fresco

A video was published in the “Italy for Me” community of the Facebook social network in which the user showed the names of tourists from Ukraine scratched on a Raphael fresco in the Vatican, the RIA Novosti news agency reports. The incident caused an outrage in social media, demanding the investigation into the this appalling act of vandalism.

Two Ukrainian tourists became notorious due to vandalism. Visitors of the Vatican’s Papal Palace discovered the clumsy scratched names of two residents of Vinnytisa on the fresco of the greatest genius of the Renaissance, Rafael Santi.

A video with traces of vandalism was published on Facebook by a user Alexander Voznesensky.

The graffiti were left on one of the frescoes in famous stanza of Rafael (from the Italian Stanze di Raffaello – the rooms of Rafael) – the precious masterpieces of the Papal Palace. The Italian genius painted the rooms in 1508-1517 with his apprentices. Each stanza has four fresco compositions of wall size.

For a minute I was even speechless from what I saw. It’s not even shame, it … I don’t have enough words. Some Lena and Tamara from Vinnitsa scribbled their names on Raphael’s mural,Alexander wrote on his page.

So far Ukrainian prosecution has not reacted yet upon the case of deplorable vandalism of World Heritage by two inhabitants of Vinnytsia, an industrial city of 370 000 inhabitants. There city also hosts the headquarters of the Ukrainian Air Force.

The recent case of vandalism involved 17-year-old Bulgarian studen, who has been accused of aggravated damage to a building of historical and cultural interest after carving her initial into a wall of the Colosseum in Rome.

The student was visiting the monument on a school trip on 28 April 2019 when she engraved the letter “M”, the intital of her first name, on an interior wall of of the ancient amphitheatre.

The Bulgarian tourist actions were noticed by security staff who immediately called police.

Following a sequence of barbaric incidents in 2016 Italian legislators approved a bill, introducing the specific offence of defacing or damaging cultural heritage or landscapes, and increased the penalty to a maximum of five years imprisonment. Previously the vandals were changed with €20 000 fine, which was not effective, preventing vandals from their barbaric actions.

EU-Belarus visa facilitation

Today, the European Union and Belarus signed a visa facilitation agreement and a readmission agreement. The agreements represent an important step in EU-Belarus relations and pave the way for improved mobility of citizens, contributing to closer links between the EU and its Eastern Partnership neighbours. At today’s signing ceremony, Commissioner for Home Affairs, Ylva Johansson, together with Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior of Croatia as Council Presidency, Davor Božinović, signed for the EU, while Belarus was represented by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Vladimir Makei.

“These agreements between the European Union and Belarus are a significant step forward in our cooperation. They will improve the mobility of our citizens in a well-managed and secure environment and help build closer links between the European Union and Belarus. From the European side, we will now move ahead rapidly with ratification procedures, so citizens can feel the benefits as soon as possible” Commissioner Johansson said.

The visa facilitation agreement will make it easier for Belarusian citizens to acquire short-term visas to come to the European Union. Belarus has unilaterally introduced measures to facilitate short-term visa-free travel for EU citizens arriving in Minsk. The main objective of the EU-Belarus readmission agreement is to establish, on the basis of reciprocity, procedures for the safe and orderly return of persons who reside irregularly in the EU or Belarus, in full respect of their rights under international law.

Venice suffers acqua alta

The gust of wind with  bad weather that has hit much of Italy saw acqua alta reach 1.27 metres in Venice on November 12, with much of the city swamped and the narthex of St Mark’s Basilica flooded.

Levels of 100-120 cm above sea level are fairly common in the lagoon city and Venice is well-equipped to cope with its rafts of pontoon walkways, ANSA writes.
But anything much above 120 cm risks swamping much of the city. In southern Italy, meanwhile, schools were closed in Matera and the nearby town of Metaponto was hit by a tornado.
Gale-force winds and torrential rain is also a big problem in Calabria, where the gusts reached 113 kmph and Puglia.

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