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HEALTH

Where are Italy’s new coronavirus clusters?

As Italy warns of an uptick in coronavirus infections, especially among people returning from abroad, we look at where new clusters have been identified and how they started.

Where are Italy's new coronavirus clusters?
Italy's health authorities are using widespread testing to detect asymptomatic cases. Photo: Tiziana Fabi/AFP

While infections detected in Italy have risen in the past few weeks, health authorities say that's at least partly down to more proactive screening that has allowed them to identify cases sooner, even without symptoms.

Thanks to contact tracing protocols, people who have come in contact with someone infected can also be isolated more swiftly, cutting off the chain of transmission.

READ ALSO: Italy warns of uptick in coronavirus infections as reproduction number rises

But nonetheless new focolai ('hotspots') continue to emerge across Italy – even if, in most instances, the numbers of people involved are relatively small. 

Here are the provinces with some of the biggest recent clusters, and what we know about how they started.

Treviso, Veneto

In what's believed to be the biggest recent outbreak in Italy, more than 250 people have tested positive in the past fortnight in a cluster that started at a migrant reception centre in Treviso. Most of those infected are residents, but they also include a dozen staff and at least one police officer who visited the premises.

The majority of cases were asymptomatic, according to health authorities.

All 300 residents remain in quarantine at the centre, while prosecutors have opened an investigation into how the virus was able to spread so widely – especially since two cases were identified at the centre two months ago.

Mantua, Lombardy

At least 127 workers on a farm in Rodigo have contracted the virus, most of them employees involved in wrapping and packing fruit.

More than 400 people were tested after one worker reported having a fever. Most of the other people infected didn't show any symptoms, health authorities said.

Ragusa, Sicily

More than 60 people staying at a migrant reception centre in the port of Pozzallo tested positive for the virus in a single day this week, in addition to other cases reported there this month.

Local authorities warn that facilities are overcrowded as more people attempt to cross by boat from North Africa in summer, and that some reception centres are struggling to keep residents in isolation.


Health workers on the Sicilian island of Lampedusa check the temperature of people arriving by boat. Photo: Alberto Pizzoli/AFP

Smaller outbreaks have also been reported at migrant reception centres or hostels in Pergusa, Sicily, and Carrara, Tuscany.

Vercelli, Piedmont

Nearly 40 cases, most of them without symptoms, have been traced back to a single businessman who returned to Italy from the Dominican Republic – one of 16 countries on Italy's 'high risk' list, where you're only allowed to travel from if you're an Italian resident who needs to return home. 

READ ALSO: Italy's latest travel rules, explained

The man reportedly flew on a plane carrying an infected passenger, then failed to quarantine upon landing as required by Italy's travel restrictions. He is understood to have visited two of his businesses and met up with friends, several of whom have now tested positive.

Pesaro, Marche

More than 30 people have tested positive in the small town of Montecopiolo, which has been carrying out mass screening of all 1,100 residents after someone who attended a school reunion dinner with dozens of other people in mid-July reported becoming sick.

Assisi, Umbria

The entire Sacro Convento monastery is currently in quarantine after at least 18 occupants tested positive for coronavirus.

The 14 novices and four friars have been isolated from the rest of the brothers, while monks living in the Franciscan monastery – which adjoins the famous Basilica of St Francis of Assisi, a Unesco heritage site and pilgrimage destination for Christians from all over the world – have ceased duties that would bring them into contact with the public.


The Basilica of St Francis holds the saint's remains. Photo: Tiziana Fabi/AFP

The cluster is believed to be linked to the parents of one of the new novices, who recently arrived in Assisi from several other countries in Europe. One man's parents, visiting from France last week, subsequently tested positive upon their return home.

Padua, Verona and Vicenza, Veneto

Around 20 teenagers who celebrated the end of school with a group holiday to Croatia were found to have become infected after their return in early August. 

Nearly 100 people took part in the trip, which saw youngsters travel around the island of Pag by coach. The Italian travel agency that organized it says it alerted health authorities as soon as the first holidaymaker tested positive, and people from at least two of its tours are now being screened.

Arezzo, Tuscany

A dozen teenagers who returned from a holiday on the Greek island of Corfu have since tested positive for the virus, as has the mother of one of the group.

The youngsters told Italian media that they were the only ones to turn up at nightclubs wearing face masks, so they took them off. They and their families are now in quarantine.

Several other clusters have now been traced back to returning holidaymakers, including a group of five people in Cuneo, Piedmont who had been to Croatia, eight people in Rome who visited Malta, another three in Syracuse, Sicily, who had also been to Malta, five teenagers from Puglia who went to Greece, and a family of three in Bologna, Emilia-Romagna, who had travelled to France.

READ ALSO: 


International tourists arrive in Greece. Photo: Angelos Tzortzinis/AFP

Savona, Liguria

Authorities are screening some 40 people who attended a barbecue on August 1st with someone who may have been infected. Seven people have tested positive so far, according to press reports.

In late July more than 50 cases were traced back to a 300-seat sushi restaurant in the same province, many of them without symptoms. Authorities isolated and tested more than 1,000 people and say the cluster is effectively contained.

Rieti, Lazio

At least seven infections have been linked to a children's summer camp in Rieti, after an 8 year old was found to have the virus.

Another child and five adults have tested positive so far, while more than 100 people are in precautionary quarantine. The camp had already wrapped up for the year by the time the first case was discovered in early August.

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STRIKES

Calendar: The transport strikes to expect in Italy this February

Travellers are once again set to face serious disruption as Italy will experience a new round of transport strikes in February. Here's what you can expect in the coming weeks.

Calendar: The transport strikes to expect in Italy this February

Travel to, from and across Italy was disrupted by dozens of strikes in January

And, while many travellers might have hoped for a change in the trend, strikes are set to continue into February as Italian unions have already announced a further round of demonstrations affecting rail and public transport services as well as airline travel.

Here’s an overview of February’s main strike actions, including a national public transport strike on Friday, February 17th and another nationwide walkout from airport ground staff on Tuesday, February 28th.

Public transport

February 17th: Public transport staff will take part in a national 24-hour strike on Friday, February 17th. 

The strike was called in late January by Italian union USB (Unione Sindacale di Base) to protest against precarious work and “wild privatisation” attempts on the part of the Italian state.

READ ALSO: Should you travel in Italy when there’s a strike on?

There currently aren’t any details as to what percentage of workers will take part in the action. As such, the amount of disruption travellers should expect on the day cannot be estimated yet. 

Air travel

February 12th: Air traffic control staff at Perugia’s San Francesco d’Assisi airport will take part in a 24-hour strike action on Sunday, February 12th. 

It isn’t yet clear how the walkout in question will affect air travel to and from the airport on the day.

Travellers at an Italian airport

A national strike from ground service staff may cause delays and queues at many Italian airports on Tuesday, February 28th. Photo by Andreas SOLARO / AFP

February 28th: Baggage handlers and other airport ground service staff will take part in a national 24-hour strike on Tuesday, February 28th. 

It isn’t yet clear how the strike will affect air travel during the day, though a similar demonstration caused significant delays and queues at some Italian airports in late January.

ENAV air traffic operators based in Calabria are also expected to strike on February 28th, with the walkout set to start at 1pm and end at 5pm.

Rail

February 5th-6th: Calabria-based Trenitalia staff will strike from 9pm on Sunday, February 5th to 9pm the following day. 

A list of guaranteed services in the region is available here.

February 9th: Staff from Lombardy’s Trenord will take part in a 22-hour strike – from 2am to 11.50pm – on Thursday, February 9th.

Empty train platform in Codogno, Lombardy

Staff from Lombardy’s regional railway operator Trenord will strike for 22 hours on Thursday, February 9th. Photo by Miguel MEDINA / AFP

It’s currently unclear whether Trenord will operate minimum services on the day. Any information regarding the strike will be released on the following website page

February 12th-13th: Trenitalia staff in Emilia-Romagna will strike from 3.30am on Sunday, February 12th to 2.30am on Monday, February 13th.

A list of guaranteed services in the region is available here.

February 19th: Veneto-based Trenitalia staff will strike from 9am to 5pm on Sunday, February 19th. 

Guaranteed services are available here.

On the same day, there will be no service between Milan’s Milano Centrale station and Paris’s Gare de Lyon due to a strike from staff at France’s national railway company SNCF.

READ ALSO: Trains and planes: Italy’s new international travel routes in 2023

February 20th: Trenitalia personnel in Lombardy are expected to strike from 9am to 5pm on Monday, February 20th. 

Guaranteed services haven’t been made available yet. 

You can keep up to date with the latest strike news from Italy HERE.

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