Venice gondola service returns as lockdown restrictions ease in Italy

As restaurants begin to serve food to dine-in customers and shops start to open for the first time after over two months of lockdown, Venice residents are also beginning to see the familiar sight of gondolas traversing the city's iconic canals.

Although the city is still closed to tourists, gondoliers have donned their iconic white-and-blue striped shirts, as well as gloves and face masks, to transport locals. Tape has been placed in each vessel to help passengers maintain social distancing requirements while onboard.

According to Giovanni Giusto, the city councillor for the Protection of Traditions, the restoration of gondola service is the first step of a city returning to normal. "It's good news, a sign of everyone's desire to get back to normal as soon as possible, but without ever lowering our guard in order to defeat the virus once and for all," he said, according to Agence France Presse.

Sanitation workers are spraying boarding areas with disinfectant prior to passenger boarding, and only locals will be able to use the gondolas until Italy opens its borders to European Union citizens on June 3 .

Italy's restrictions began on March 9 to combat a rising death toll from the coronavirus pandemic, which has grown to over 32,000.

On May 16, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said the country was taking a "calculated risk" in easing lockdown restrictions in the face of a crippling recession.

“We are taking this risk and we have to accept it, otherwise we could not restart. We cannot wait for a vaccine,” he told reporters.

May 18 saw the opening of restaurants, bars, barbers and museums, and citizens were free to begin travelling within their region. On June 3, Italians will be able to move freely around the entire country, and visitors from the European Union will be allowed to enter Italy.

In spite of the reopenings, Italian authorities say citizens and visitors must respect one-meter social distancing requirements and have a protective mask to be worn at certain times.

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