SHARE
COPY LINK

HEALTH

Coronavirus: Outbreak of UK variant detected in northern Italy

Health experts warned on Thursday of new coronavirus variants beginning to circulate in Italy, as authorities pinpointed an outbreak of a UK strain in a northern town.

Coronavirus: Outbreak of UK variant detected in northern Italy
Photo: Miguel Medina/AFP

The town of Corzano in the Lombardy region has been swabbing close contacts of students and teachers in a school where 24 people tested positive for Covid-19 last month.

After 139 people were found positive out of 189 tested, health authorities in the province of Brescia decided to sequence the samples, which identified the British strain of the virus.

“Fourteen samples were sequenced which resulted in… 14 positives for the British variant,” the Brescia health agency wrote in a statement sent to AFP on Thursday.

The more easily transmissible British variant of the coronavirus is one of several to have emerged internationally in recent months.

Travel has been heavily restricted between Italy and the UK since late December amid concern over the new variant.

EXPLAINED: What are the rules on travel between Italy and the UK?

Italy's health ministry confirmed the country's first case of the UK variant on December 20th, in a patient who had recently returned from Britain.

Although only one of the 139 people who tested positive in Corzano has been hospitalised, and most others are asymptomatic, health experts warned that the arrival of new virus variants should not be underestimated.

Italy was the first European country to be hit by coronavirus almost a year ago and so far 90,000 people have died from the disease in the country.

Independent health think tank GIMBE said overall cases had recently declined thanks to restrictions on movement over the Christmas and New Year's holidays and into January.

But it warned that the first signs of increases in some regions could point to the presence of new variants.

GIMBE President Nino Cartabellotta said the country was undergoing “one of the most critical phases of the pandemic”.

He noted the slowdown of the vaccination programme that began in late December, following delays in the delivery of doses, and “the first signs of increased circulation of the virus, undoubtedly underestimated”.

“But above all looms the threat of new variants, already landed in Italy, which risk increasing the contagion curve,” Cartabellotta added.

In Corzano, authorities believe they have successfully contained the outbreak, saying that in the first three days of February, only one or two people a day had tested positive for the virus.

But GIMBE noted that nine regions had registered a rise in new infections in the seven days from January 27 to Tuesday, compared with the previous week, and recommended genome sequencing when abnormal spikes in new cases are detected.

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.
For members

COVID-19

Reader Question: What are Italy’s Covid quarantine rules for travellers?

Italy's quarantine rules have changed so many times over the past couple of years, it can be hard to keep track. Here's the latest information on when and how visitors need to self-isolate.

Reader Question: What are Italy's Covid quarantine rules for travellers?

Question: “One of your recent articles says you can exit quarantine by testing negative for the coronavirus. But you can also exit quarantine by obtaining a Letter of Recovery from Covid-19… true?”

Unfortunately, official proof of having recovered from Covid-19 won’t get you out of the requirement to self-isolate if you test positive for Covid while visiting Italy – though it can shorten your quarantine period.

Anyone who tests positive in Italy is required to immediately self-isolate for a minimum of seven days: that’s if the person in question is fully vaccinated and boosted, or has completed their primary vaccination cycle or recovered from Covid less than 120 days ago.

That period is extended to 10 days for those who aren’t fully vaccinated and boosted, or those who recovered from Covid or completed their primary vaccination cycle more than 120 days ago.

READ ALSO: Travel in Italy and Covid rules this summer: what to expect

In either case, the infected person must have been symptomless for at least three days in order to exit quarantine (with the exception of symptoms relating to a lost sense of taste or smell, which can persist for some time after the infection is over).

The patient must also test negative for the virus via either a molecular (PCR) or rapid antigen test on the final day of the quarantine in order to be allowed out.

Quarantined people who keep testing positive for the virus can be kept in self-isolation for a maximum of 21 days, at which point they will be automatically released.

Italy does not currently require visitors from any country to test negative in order to enter its borders, as long as they are fully boosted or were recently vaccinated/ have recently recovered from Covid.

READ ALSO: How tourists and visitors can get a coronavirus test in Italy

Some countries (including the US), however, do require people travelling from Italy to test negative before their departure – which means visitors at the tail end of their journey could be hit with the unpleasant surprise of finding out they need to quarantine for another week in Italy instead of heading home as planned.

It’s because of this rule that a number of The Local’s readers told us they wouldn’t be coming on holiday to Italy this summer, and intend to postpone for another year.

If you are planning on visiting Italy from a country that requires you to test negative for Covid prior to re-entry, it’s a good idea to consider what you would do and where you would go in the unlikely event you unexpectedly test positive.

Please note that The Local cannot advise on specific cases. For more information about how the rules may apply to you, see the Italian Health Ministry’s website or consult the Italian embassy in your country.

You can keep up with the latest updates via our homepage or Italian travel news section.

SHOW COMMENTS