We’ve had pre-travel testing, quarantine on arrival and “covid-free” flights. Now comes something new in the travel industry’s battle against the pandemic: “covid-free” trains.
The concept is being launched in Italy, the first European country to be hit hard by Covid-19, which, one year on, is in the grip of a feared third wave.
Italy already has “covid-free” flights – where passengers are tested before boarding and on arrival – from Rome to Atlanta and New York JFK.
But the country’s main train operator has announced plans for “covid-free” trains including to Italy’s main tourist destinations this summer.
Gianfranco Battisti, CEO of state-owned Ferrovie dello Stato Italiane, has said that on these trains, both passengers and staff will be tested for Covid-19 before boarding. Passengers will have to arrive at the station an hour ahead of departure.
“We will launch a covid-free train at the start of April,” said Battisti.
“We have chosen the Rome to Milan route for the initial testing phase. Then we will implement this for tourist destinations for the summer.
“It will be a unique opportunity which will allow people to visit destinations such as Venice and Florence.”
The company is working with the Red Cross and Italian Civil Protection on the testing. A spokesperson for Trenitalia told CNN that further details cannot be confirmed at present. However, it is expected that the Rome-Milan tickets will go on sale in the near future, on the high-speed Frecce trains.
Currently, Italian trains run at 50% capacity. Passengers must wear masks and, on high-speed trains, where booking is mandatory, must sit in their allocated seat.
Battisti’s comments came at a presentation in Rome of the “treno sanitario,” or “health train” – a mobile hospital, with eight carriages designed to care for patients being shuttled between regions. It has been developed as Italy struggles with a third wave of Covid-19, and some regional health services are under more pressure than others.
The train – which has three ICU carriages equipped with ventilators – will even be able to take passengers abroad, if needed.
Meanwhile, 11 major train stations across Italy will allocate “screening” areas, to be run by the Red Cross – presumably to be used for the Covid-free services.
Hubs include Rome, Milan, Florence, Naples, Venice Mestre, and Bari, for those traveling to beach resorts in Puglia.
Termini station in Rome is also due to become a hub for the vaccination program, which the government has vowed to speed up, as many 80-something Italians still wait for their injections.
Giovanni Rezza, director of prevention of Italy’s health ministry, predicted Tuesday that it will take “seven to 15 months” for the country to return to normality, if they can accelerate the vaccination drive.