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Could handling carry-on luggage increase the risk of coronavirus transmission?
Luggage on flights to, from, and within Italy now has to be checked to allow travelers to maintain a safe social distance.
Italy’s National Civil Aviation Authority (ENAC) last month banned the use of overhead bins in an effort to protect passengers and crew from coronavirus transmission up in the air.
The ban on carry-ons is intended to better enforce social-distancing measures on the aircraft—numerous people shoving their luggage into the overhead bins often brings people into close contact with one another. If there are few enough fliers onboard that are able to keep a safe distance from one another, then carry-on luggage will be permitted, according to ENAC. But if not, fliers will need to check their bags.
The rule applies to both domestic and international flights where social-distancing measures cannot be implemented onboard, so essentially on fuller flights. On flights where the overhead bins are off-limits, passengers will still be able to put a personal item under the seat.
In response to the new ENAC regulations, Italy’s national carrier Alitalia issued an updated policy that the use of overhead bins for the storage of carry-on baggage will no longer be allowed on any flights that it operates in Italy. Passengers will only be permitted to bring on a small personal item that that can be placed under their seat. Consequently, Alitalia is allowing passengers to check their luggage free of charge.
The move comes as countries within Europe have begun opening up to more travelers both from within the continent and from abroad and are grappling with how to do so safely amid the coronavirus pandemic.
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Italian health minister Roberto Speranza this week urged the European Union to beef up measures to prevent people with coronavirus from arriving in the EU, and he has said Italy will not squander the sacrifices it made to contain the virus after it exploded in the north of the country in February.
In a letter to the European health commissioner, Speranza proposed “new rigorous precautionary measures” for non-EU arrivals that would “more efficiently guarantee the objective of containing the diffusion of contagion caused by foreign clusters.”
Italy refused to fully give the green light to passengers from 14 non-EU countries deemed safe by the European Union earlier this month, insisting still that they undertake a mandatory quarantine.
On Wednesday, Italy added another 193 positive cases to its official COVID-19 toll, with some 49 cases in the northern region of Emilio-Romagna. Another 15 people with the virus died in the past day, 12 of them in hard-hit Lombardy, bringing Italy’s official death toll to 34,914.
Associated Press contributed reporting.
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