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Don't treat Italy like a leper colony says foreign minister


ROME (Reuters) - Italy will not be treated like a leper colony, Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio said on Saturday, promising a warm welcome to foreign tourists this summer and warning other European Union states not to shut out Italians.

European countries are cautiously reopening their borders as the coronavirus contagion subsides around the continent, with Italy set to let tourists back in from June 15.

However, some EU states are looking to keep the door shut on visitors from places that have suffered a particularly high number of COVID-19 cases. Greece, for example, said on Friday it would open its frontiers to citizens from just 29 countries, excluding Italians, Spaniards and the British.

"We do not accept blacklists," Di Maio wrote on Facebook, announcing a forthcoming round of bilateral meetings both in Rome and abroad to press Italy's case.

"If anyone thinks they can treat us like a leper colony, then they should know that we will not stand for it."

Italy has the third highest death toll in the world from the new coronavirus, with some 33,229 people dying since the outbreak came to light on Feb. 21. It has the sixth highest global tally of cases - some 232,248.

However new infections and fatalities have fallen steadily this month and the country is unwinding some of the most rigid lockdown restrictions introduced anywhere on the continent.

The government confirmed late on Friday that it intended to push ahead with plans to lift all constraints on travel between Italy's regions from June 3 - one of the last curbs still in place.

"We have always acted responsibly and transparently and we will continue to do so. That is precisely why we expect respect," Di Maio said.

(Reporting by Crispian Balmer; Editing by Kirsten Donovan)

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