Covid-19: Italy debates relaxing Christmas travel ban between towns

Government divided over travel ban on three Christmas holiday dates.

The Italian premier Giuseppe Conte has opened a discussion on the possibility of relaxing Italy's travel ban on Christmas Day, St Stephen's Day and New Year's Day amid opposing views within his government, reports ANSA.

As it stands, the rules state that it will not be possible to move outside one's city, town or village of residence on 25 and 26 December and on 1 January 2021.

For Italy's health minister Roberto Speranza, who is "following the line of maximum caution," the rules are "correct" and should not be modified.

"I would like to say that it is all over but unfortunately it is not" - underlined Speranza - "and the most dramatic number is that of deaths. We cannot become used to these numbers, because behind each of those people there is a life, relatives who cry and a lot of pain. We have asked Italians for more patience and sacrifices over this Christmas too. We really need to stick to our guns."

However Italy's foreign minister Luigi Di Maio is firmly against the ban and says he is confident that a "solution" will be found, while renewing his appeal for people to be careful and to comply with the covid-19 rules to avert a "third wave."

"I think it is absurd not to allow family members who live in small neighboring towns to spend Christmas and New Year together" - Di Maio wrote on Facebook - "There are large cities of millions of people with a huge density where it is possible to move freely, while between small towns of a few thousand people it is not allowed."

Italy's agriculture minister Teresa Bellanova has added her voice to those against the ban, saying "the prohibition of moving from one's town at Christmas and New Year is an excessive, incomprehensible and unjust measure, especially for those who live in smaller towns."

Italy's governors are also against the Christmas travel ban, with the president of the Liguria region Giovanni Toti describing it as "an injustice for millions of Italians."

Conte now finds himself at the centre of two opposing camps on the issue which is set to be discussed further in the coming days, including in the senate, according to reports in the Italian media.