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MAPS: Where are the new Covid-19 variants spreading in Italy?

Highly infectious variants first identified in the UK, Brazil and South Africa are now confirmed in Italy. Here's what we know about where the new strains are spreading.

MAPS: Where are the new Covid-19 variants spreading in Italy?
Health workers prepare to test arriving passengers at Cagliari airport in Sardinia. Photo: Alberto Pizzoli/AFP

The variant most widely present in Italy is the one identified in the UK in December, which is now believed to account for more than half of all new Covid-19 cases in Italy.

The UK variant is involved in 54 percent of recent cases, according to the latest estimate by Italy’s Higher Health Institute, the ISS.

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In some parts of the country it’s even more prevalent: more than 70 percent of new cases are tied to the variant in Liguria and Sardinia, the ISS calculates, while in Molise the figure is over 93 percent.

Meanwhile the Brazilian variant accounts for 4.3 percent of cases nationwide, with outbreaks mainly concentrated in central Italy, especially Umbria (just over 36 percent) and Tuscany (around 24 percent).

The South African variant is the least prevalent, accounting for just 0.4 percent of new cases in Italy. Most cases to date have been identified in Lombardy and the autonomous province of Bolzano.

The figures come from a nationwide analysis of the genetic make-up of the virus found in more than 1,200 positive swabs collected from patients in mid-February in labs around Italy. 

The first case of the UK variant was detected in northern Italy in late December, in a passenger who had recently flown back from Britain. It has since been identified in almost every region of Italy.

The Brazilian variant was first detected in Lombardy in late January, but since then has spread most widely in Umbria and Tuscany.

The South African variant was also first identified in Lombardy, in a passenger who tested positive in early February after flying back to Milan from a country in southern Africa.

It remains most prevalent in the north of Italy, though cases have also been reported on Sicily. 

Find all The Local’s updates on the coronavirus pandemic in Italy here.

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HEALTH

Italy begins monkeypox vaccination drive in four regions

Italy this week began offering vaccination against monkeypox in regions with the most confirmed cases, the health ministry said.

Italy begins monkeypox vaccination drive in four regions

The first vaccinations against monkeypox, or vaiolo delle scimmie, were carried out in the Lazio region on Monday at Rome’s Spallazani hospital for infectious diseases.

The vaccination campaign will soon be extended to the three other Italian regions with the highest number of monkeypox cases: Emilia Romagna, Lombardy and Veneto.

A total of 4,200 jabs are available in Italy at the moment, according to national broadcaster Rai.

Italy has recorded just over 500 cases so far, though health authorities say the disease continues to spread.

Italy currently recommends vaccination for people in the following high-risk groups;

  • laboratory staff at risk of possible direct exposure to orthopoxvirus
  • gay, transgender, bisexual and other men who have sex with men

The World Health Organization said on Saturday that the monkeypox outbreak represents a global health emergency. So far this year, there have been more than 16,000 cases in more than 75 countries. Five deaths – all in Africa – have been linked to the virus.

First detected in humans in 1970, monkeypox is less dangerous and contagious than the eradicated smallpox virus, which it resembles, and an existing smallpox vaccine is being used against it.

See further details of the vaccination drive on the health ministry’s official website here or speak to your healthcare provider for more information.

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