Italy and Greece relax COVID restrictions ahead of Europe’s peak tourist season

Greece’s civil aviation authority announced on Sunday that it would lift all COVID-19 rules for international and domestic flights, except for the use of face masks during flights and at airports.

Previously, air travelers had to show proof of vaccination, a negative test, or a recent recovery from the disease.

Amalfi Coast - Sorrento
Visitors to Italy’s Amalfi Coast no longer need war masks in most places. (Getty)

Under a decree approved by the Italian Ministry of Health, the country has eliminated the health pass that was required to enter restaurants, cinemas, gyms and other places.

The green pass, which showed proof of vaccination, recovery from the virus, or a recent negative test, is still required to access hospitals and nursing homes.

They also ended some indoor mask-wearing mandates, including inside supermarkets, workplaces and stores.

Masks are still required on public transportation, in movie theaters, and in all healthcare and elder care facilities.

“It was necessary,” said Claudio Civitelli, a Rome resident who was having his morning coffee at a bar near the Trevi Fountain.

Until Sunday, customers were required to wear a mask to enter bars and restaurants, although they could take it off to eat and drink.

“We have waited more than two years,” Civitelli said.

At a nearby table, Andrea Bichler, an Italian tourist from Trentino Alto-Adige, sat with friends similarly maskless.

“It’s much better,” he said.

“Let’s say it’s a return to life, a free life.”

Aerial view of Crete, Greece.
Tourists no longer need to show proof of vaccination, a negative test, or a recent recovery from COVID-19 to vacation in travel favorites like Crete. (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

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

As of Sunday, visitors to Italy will no longer have to fill out the EU Passenger Locator Form, a complicated and difficult-to-use online form required at airport check-in.

Even with restrictions increasingly on the way, public health officials urged caution and stressed that the pandemic was not over yet.

Italy reports 699 cases per 100,000 inhabitants and registers more than 100 deaths per day, with a total confirmed death toll of 163,500.

But hospital capacity remains stable and below the critical threshold.

“We must maintain the vaccination campaign, including reinforcements, and maintain behavior inspired by prudence: wear masks indoors or in crowded places or where there is a risk of contagion,” said Dr. Giovanni Rezza, in charge of prevention at the Ministry of Health.

Events that have disrupted global travel

The government imposed one of the harshest lockdowns and production shutdowns in the West during the first wave of the virus, and maintained stricter restrictions than many of its neighbors in subsequent waves.

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