Italy to launch first ‘virus-free’ flights between US and Europe

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The logo of Italy's flag carrier Alitalia is pictured on an Airbus A320 on June 4, 2019 as passengers board the plane at Rome's Fiumicino airport. (Photo by Alberto PIZZOLI / AFP)

Italy is to offer Europe’s first “coronavirus-free” flights to the United States for passengers who have tested negative for Covid-19, scrapping the obligation for new arrivals to quarantine

Rome’s Fiumicino airport said on Thursday it had sealed a deal with Italian airline Alitalia and Delta Air Lines of the United States for the special flights between selected North American cities and the Italian capital from next month. Similar travel “corridors” will also be trialed between Rome and the German cities of Munich and Frankfurt, it said. The move follows the launch in September of virus-free domestic flights between Rome and financial capital Milan. “The new travel protocols, planned on an experimental basis on flights from the United States to Fiumicino… will be progressively offered to passengers as early as December,” Fiumicino said in a statement. 

“The experimental phase will aim to evaluate the effectiveness and functionality of the new travel mode, with the aim of making it more widely available in view of the summer 2021 season,” it added. The airport said travellers arriving from New York’s JFK airport and those of Newark and Atlanta in the US would be able to skip quarantine by doing a test 48 hours before departure and another one on landing in Rome.

 Fiumicino offers rapid antigen tests for arriving passengers which detect the presence of proteins found in the virus and take 30 minutes to produce a result, it said. The introduction of these flights does not necessarily mean the rules on travel to Italy from the US are set to be changed, however. Restrictions on non-essential travel to Italy from the US and many other non-EU countries currently remain in place.