Self-Isolation Key To Tackle COVID, Italy’s Aeolian Islands Set An Example

Sicily’s stunning Aeolian islands have adopted tight regulations to combat COVID spread which are paying off. Out of seven islands, five are COVID-free safe havens.

Rules are stricter than in the rest of the region. Residents aren’t allowed to island-hop unless it’s for health, work, other urgent matters or if they’re going back to their houses. And when they do move, they must carry along with them a self-certification. 

Local authorities forbid people from leaving their home-isle (either by ferry boat or private dinghy) to visit friends and relatives or go shopping on other nearby atolls, despite all seven islands are quite close to each other and part of the same municipality.

The two islands with a few COVID cases are Lipari, the largest of the archipelago, and Salina, famous for its capers. The other five – Alicudi, Filicudi, Vulcano, Stromboli and Panarea – are completely COVID-free and mayor Marco Giorgianni, who’s in charge of the entire archipelago except for one island, wants to make sure they remain so. 

“We want to be extra careful. All islands, except Salina, are part of Lipari’s town hall and according to already existing regulations islanders would have been allowed to freely move from one isle to the other but I’ve decided to adopt a tighter set of rules” by passing a specific local law, Giorgianni tells me. 

Italy’s has been divided into three colored zones based on risk contagion level. Sicily is part of the orange team (medium risk) for now. People living in the region can move freely within their towns and cities, which is not allowed in the Aeolian archipelago even though it’s part of Sicily.

The extra precaution is paying off in a particularly difficult moment for Italy, facing a scary second wave with roughly 40,000 new cases per day.

During summer the Aeolian islands, a UNESCO-listed World Heritage Site, are a tourist hotspot and even this year travelers flocked to suntan on its volcanic beaches and bathe in translucent waters. Having survived the crowded high season without contagion, the islands with zero cases are keen to keep it up. 

Islanders I spoke to don’t seem to mind the extra restrictions, nor the imposed self-isolation. They’re happy to live on pristine, uncontaminated tropical-like atolls and know they’ve been lucky that COVID has spared almost the entire archipelago. 

Italy’s government is constantly monitoring the pandemic evolution across all regions and regularly updates the colored zones map by upgrading or downgrading region status based on various scientific criteria.

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