Covid-19: Italian schools report 13,000 positive cases among staff ahead of reopening

Around half of all Italian school staff were tested for coronavirus this week ahead of reopening, and some 13,000 tests came back positive, authorities said.

Covid-19: Italian schools report 13,000 positive cases among staff ahead of reopening
Italian schools are preparing for the long-awaited return to class from next week. Photo: Vincenzo Pinto/AFP

More than half a million serological (blood) tests were carried out on Italy's school staff – both teachers and non-teachers – this week as blanket testing began ahead of the planned return to school from September 14th.

Around 13,000 tested positive, equal to 2.6 percent of those tested.

This is only slightly higher than the current average 2.2 percent of positive swabs in the country.

The data was reported by Italy's coronavirus response commissioner Domenico Arcuri, who told Tg1 news: “It means that up to 13,000 potentially infected people will not return to schools, will not produce outbreaks and will not circulate the virus.”

READ ALSO: How Italian schools are preparing for the return to class next week

Photo: AFP

More staff are expected to be tested in coming days and weeks, as Italy has supplied schools with around two million of the tests, Italian news agency Ansa reports. This was near half of Italy's total of 970,000 school staff – excluding the 200,000 in Rome's Lazio region, which is performing the tests independently. 

The number of positive cases was not added to Italy's daily total on Thursday. Scientific experts said this is likely to be because the test were serologicial and not nasal swab tests.

READ ALSO: Travelling to Italy? Here's what you need to know about coronavirus tests

On Thursday, authorities registered 1,597 new cases in 24 hours, and ten more deaths.

While the number of testing has been increasing overall in recent week, so too has the percentage of swabs coming back positive.

However the Italian government has repeatedly insisted that outbreaks can be contained at current levels.

Hospitalisations also continue to rise. 14 more patients were admitted to intensive care, for a total of 164, with 1,836 in other wards.

The number of patients in intensive care is a key figure, both for hospital capacity and for the likely future death toll.

Italy is also reportedly considering cutting the quarantine period from 14 to 10 days. The government's technical and scentific committee (CTS) is expected to make a decision on this at a meeting on Tuesday.

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Italy reports first case of monkeypox

Italy on Thursday reported its first case of monkeypox, joining a number of other European and North American nations in detecting the disease endemic in parts of Africa.

Italy reports first case of monkeypox

Monkeypox was identified in a young adult who had recently returned from the Canary Islands, Rome’s Spallanzani Institute for infectious diseases said.

He is being treated in isolation and is in a reasonable condition, it said in a statement carried by Italian news agencies, adding that two other suspected cases were being investigated.

Alessio D’Amato, health commissioner for the Lazio region that includes Rome, confirmed on social media that it was the country’s first case, adding that the situation was being “constantly monitored”.

Cases of monkeypox have also been detected in Spain and Portugal – where more than 40 possible and verified cases have been reported – as well as Britain, Sweden, the United States and Canada.

The illness has infected thousands of people in parts of Central and Western Africa in recent years, but is rare in Europe and North Africa.

Its symptoms are similar but somewhat milder than smallpox’s: fever, headache, muscle aches, back pain, chills, exhaustion, although it also causes the lymph nodes to swell up.

Within one to three days, the patient develops a rash, often beginning on the face then spreading to other parts of the body. Although most monkeypox cases aren’t serious, studies have shown that one in ten people who contract the disease in Africa die from it.

The World Health Organization on Tuesday said it was coordinating with UK and European health officials over the new outbreaks.