Jonathan Sumption

Britain’s bizarre Italian travel guidance

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Here’s a tip. When the Foreign Office advises against going somewhere, hop on the next plane. The mandarins have advised against visiting Italy because of Covid-19. It’s as bizarre as everything else that our rulers have said about the virus. Confirmed cases in the UK are currently more than twice as high per 100,000 as in Italy. Anyone with our welfare at heart should be telling us to go to Italy at once. I left the next day. The Italians could be forgiven for serving us our own medicine and quarantining all arrivals from the UK. As it is, they test you at the airport, and quarantine is only required if you test positive. It is rational and very efficient. It takes only ten minutes and costs nothing.

Generally, however, the Italian government has much to answer for. It was the first democracy to lock down its people, thus giving political cover to most of Europe to do the same. The impact has been catastrophic. The effects can be seen everywhere: familiar restaurants permanently closed, small workshops out of business, factories on the edge of disaster, each one signalling a ruined business, wrecked lives and more jobless. The papers report that suicides have tripled since last year. Yet there is still joy in the streets. In Parma, the restaurants and street cafés are so crowded that on Saturday nights there is not a table to be had, in spite of the absence of tourists. In the largest public square of Mantua, tables for 20 are laid out on Sunday for extended families celebrating the First Communion of their eight-year-olds. But behind the joy, there is a sense of foreboding as the state prepares to suppress life in the name of saving lives.

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