Travellers returning to Italy from 4 nations to be tested for COVID-19

Italy will begin COVID-19 testing for people returning from Greece, Spain, Malta, and Croatia, officials said.

The decision was announced late Wednesday after an emergency meeting between Italy’s ministers of Health and of Regional Affairs and the governors of the country’s 20 regions, reports Xinhua news agency.

The urgent talks were called after several cases of people returning from the above-mentioned European countries and developing the infection were confirmed.

“I signed a decree providing for a DNA test or antigen swab test on those returning from Croatia, Greece, Malta, and Spain,” Health Minister Roberto Speranza wrote on Twitter.

Speranza explained there could be three options for such testing, including subjecting holidaymakers to antigen test in the place of arrival (airport, port, or train station) or imposing a swab test within 48 hours after arrival, the Italian Adn-Kronos news agency quoted the Minister as saying.

The third option would be to ask holidaymakers to show a negative certificate of COVID-19 test carried out within 72 hours before their arrival in Italy.

“We have asked regions to make the public health system’s local services able to ensure the necessary swab tests on those returning from abroad, and I hope we will agree with the regions on the method to adopt,” Regional Affairs Minister Francesco Boccia was also cited as saying after the meeting.

Though the pandemic trend remained stable in the country, according to official data, concerns about new ‘imported’ cases were fed by a series of new clusters across the country in the latest weeks.

The latest case on Wednesday was related to 10 young people in the Lombardy region, who tested positive for the coronavirus after spending their holiday in Croatia, according to local health authorities.

In the northwest Liguria region, seven people developed the infection after visiting Croatia, and two other holidaymakers were tested positive after returning from the Greece island of Corfu, governor Giovanni Toti told local media.

Similar cases included 10 Italian students who recently returned to the southern Apulia region after traveling to Greece and nine people in the Lazio region who tested positive after returning from Spain (2), Malta (2), Ukraine (2), Pakistan (2), and Romania.

An agreement between the central government and regional governors will now be needed in order to implement the mandatory testing with the same procedure across the whole country, and this will take at least some days.

In the immediate aftermath of the emergency meeting, the government’s proposal met with positive reactions by governors of Lombardy, Veneto, Friuli Venezia Giulia, and Emilia Romagna.

Sicily agreed with the need of fast tests on returning holidaymakers, but would rather act for now through a two-week-long quarantine and swab tests on those coming back from Malta, Greece, and Spain from Aug. 14 on, according to a decree issued by the governor on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, some 481 new coronavirus cases were registered in the country in the last 24 hours, according to the latest bulletin by the Health Ministry.

The country’s overall number of cases totalled 251,713, with 35,225 deaths.

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