Italy's small islands to become 'covid-free' in mass vaccination plan

Italy's mass vaccination progamme on its smaller islands is part of a 'covid-free' plan to help kickstart tourism this summer.

Italy begins a mass vaccination campaign on the resident populations of its smaller islands as part of a plan to make them 'covid-free' ahead of the summer season.

The vaccination programme, which focuses on smaller islands with minimal healthcare facilities, begins on 7 May with Capraia, off Tuscany, and the Aoeolian Islands, off Sicily.

The national plan, co-ordinated by Italy's emergency coronavirus commissioner General Francesco Paolo Figliuolo, will see the entire adult population of the islands vaccinated against covid-19, reports Italian newspaper La Stampa.

The campaign is designed to protect the island's at-risk populations as well as a bid to kickstart tourism as Italy prepares to open up to international visitors this summer.

The first island on the list is Capraia, then the Aoeolian Islands, beginning with Salina, followed a few days later by Stromboli, Vulcano, Alicudi and Filicudi, then Panarea and Lipari.

However one island - Procida - has already declared itself 'covid-free' this week, with the help of the Campania regional authorities, ahead of Italy's national covid-free islands plan on 7 May.

The tiny island, recently declared Italy's Capital of Culture 2022, announced that it had vaccinated more than 90 per cent of its adult population, stating that it is "ready to restart and welcome tourists."

Next week the vaccination campaign will extend to the Egadi islands - off Sicily - from Favignana to Levanzo and Marettimo, followed by Ustica, Lampedusa and Linosa, as well as Giglio in Tuscany and isles of San Pietro and La Maddalena in Sardinia.

A mass vaccination plan is also currently underway on Ischia, whose population of around 20,000 is being vaccinated at a rate of between 1,600 and 1,800 a day.

The island vaccination campaign comes as Italy prepares to reopen to vaccinated, recovered or covid-negative tourists, with a covid travel pass set to be introduced from mid-May.

The plan was announced in recent days by Italian premier Mario Draghi who said: "The time has come to book your holidays in Italy. Our mountains, our beaches, our cities are reopening.”

Speaking after a meeting of tourism ministers from the Group of 20 wealthy nations on 4 May, Draghi said: "The pandemic has forced us to close but Italy is ready to welcome back the world."

Italy's tourism minister Massimo Garavaglia said subsequently that the covid travel pass will be valid also for non-EU citizens, noting that tourists from the US and UK together make up more than 30 per cent of foreign arrivals in Italy.

For official information relating to the covid-19 situation in Italy, in English, see the health ministry website.