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HEALTH

Italy sees long queues for Covid tests as first ‘weekend of freedom’ begins

Italian media on Friday morning reported long lines outside testing centres as people get ready to travel, visit loved ones, and enjoy relaxed restrictions in most of the country for the first time this year.

Italy sees long queues for Covid tests as first 'weekend of freedom' begins
Customers returned to bar terraces in Milan's Navigli nightlife area this week. Photo: Miguel Medina/AFP

Many coronavirus rules within Italy were relaxed from Monday April 26th under the government’s new emergency decree.

Restaurants, bars, hotels, theatres and museums are gearing up for their first busy weekend after months of tough restrictions, including over Easter and Christmas.

“The weekend of May 1st will be the first real test, not only to verify the falling trend of the contagion curve, but also for the revival of tourism, one of the sectors worst hit by anti-Covid measures”, writes the Ansa news agency.

Some 47 million people living in Italy’s ‘yellow zone’ regions are now free to travel around most of the country.

While five of Italy’s 20 regions remain under enhanced ‘red’ or ‘orange’ zone Covid restrictions, people are still allowed to enter and leave these areas, including for tourism, using a new immunity pass.

Customers returned to restaurants in in downtown Rome on Monday, after months of stop-start restrictions imposed to manage Italy’s second and third waves of Covid-19. Photo by Filippo MONTEFORTE/AFP

The scheme allows non-essential travel for anyone who can prove they have been fully vaccinated, have recently recovered from Covid, or have been tested within the previous 48 hours.

Ansa reported long queues outside test centres on Friday morning as people waited to get the all-clear and obtain the travel certificate.

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Hotels and other types of tourist accommodation reported a boom in bookings recently from domestic holidaymakers keen to get away as restrictions ease.

City centres and nightlife areas have reportedly been busy since rules were relaxed on Monday – despite the 10pm curfew remaining in place nationwide.

Photo by Filippo MONTEFORTE / AFP

Museums are also open again in yellow zones, with many major cities allowing their biggest attractions to reopen to visitors from this weekend – though advance ticket reservations are needed. 

Theatres and cinemas are also allowed to reopen with restrictions in place.

Many rules, including those on social distancing and mandatory mask-wearing in public, remain in place.

MAP: Which zone is your region in under Italy’s coronavirus restrictions?

Police are expected to step up patrols and checks in cities over the weekend, Ansa reports.

Italy’s health ministry on Friday confirmed that six regions will remain under tighter restrictions from Monday.

The regions of Puglia, Basilicata, Sicily and Calabria will remain orange zones for at least one more week.

Valle d’Aosta turns red from Monday, while  Sardinia will go from red to the less-restrictive orange zone.

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HEALTH

Italian monkeypox cases rise to seven

Five infections have now been confirmed in Rome, as well as one in Tuscany and one in Lombardy, Italian health authorities said.

Italian monkeypox cases rise to seven

The total number Italian monkeypox cases rose to seven on Wednesday as a new case was reported by the Spallanzani hospital for infectious diseases in Rome.

Spallanzani is treating six cases: five found in Lazio and one in Tuscany, while the Sacco Hospital in Milan is treating one patient from the Lombardy region.

“There is no alarm, but the infection surveillance system is at a state of maximum attention,” Lazio’s regional health councillor Alessio D’Amato told the Ansa news agency.

Researchers at Spallanzani said the new cases are thought to be “part of a pan-European cluster” linked to cases in the Canary Islands, Ansa reported.

The first Italian case of monkey smallpox, or monkeypox, was also found in a man who had recently returned from the Canary Islands, doctors said last Thursday.

More than 250 monkeypox cases have now been reported in at least 16 countries where the virus isn’t endemic, almost all in Europe, according to the World Health Organization.

They are mostly in Spain, the UK and Portugal, with single-digit cases in Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Denmark, the Netherlands, Sweden, and Switzerland, as well as Italy.

READ ALSO: What is Spain doing to deal with rising monkeypox cases?

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.

Monkeypox is known to spread via close contact with an animal or human with the virus. It can be transmitted via bodily fluids, lesions, respiratory droplets or through contaminated materials, such as bedding.

Its symptoms are similar but somewhat milder than those of smallpox: 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 unprecedented outbreak of the monkeypox virus has put the international community on alert.

On Monday, the European Union urged member states to take steps to ensure positive cases, close contacts, and even pets be quarantined as this is a zoonotic virus (a virus that spreads from animals to humans).

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