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HEALTH

Italy’s green pass ‘should last a year’, says health undersecretary

The certificate that allows people to travel to and within Italy should be extended from six months to a year, stated Italy's health undersecretary on Tuesday.

Italy's green pass 'should last a year', says health undersecretary
(Photo by Alberto PIZZOLI / AFP)

Italy introduced a so-called ‘green pass‘ to allow tourism to restart following Covid-19 restrictions, and will also be required to allow people to attend larger events such as wedding receptions from June.

READ ALSO: How to get Italy’s coronavirus immunity ‘green pass’ for travel

The document is currently in the form of a paper certificate proving that the holder has been vaccinated, has had Covid-19 and recovered, or has shown a negative test result within the previous 48 hours.

The pass is valid for six months for those who have been vaccinated or have recovered. But the government’s health undersecretary Pierpaolo Sileri said that the validity should be extended to a year for those who have been vaccinated, as “it is very likely that protection will last for that period.”

“However, the extension should be limited to those who have had the two doses of vaccine,” he told Rai Radio 1.

“It is clear that we have not seen a year of vaccinations, but it is very likely that protection is there,” Sileri said.

“But it should only be extended to those who have completed the vaccination cycle. It is true that the first dose gives immunity, but full, standardised immunity comes after the second dose,” he added.

READ ALSO: Italy pushes back Covid curfew to 11pm and makes six regions low-risk ‘white’ zones

Vaccinations accepted include Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca or the one dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

Those who have been vaccinated should be issued a certificate proving their immunity. This is the document currently being used as the ‘green pass’ in Italy.

If you’ve previously had Covid-19 and recovered, you’ll need proof by getting a document certifying that from your local health authority (ASL) or doctor.

Testing centres can also issue paper certificates proving a negative test result, though these are valid only for 48 hours.

Pharmacies in Italy also offer rapid testing for around 20-30 euros, and you can get a rapid antigen test for free at train stations in 11 Italian cities – the results of these rapid tests can be used for the green pass.

(Photo by MARCO BERTORELLO / AFP)

For those travelling from outside of Italy, the Italian government has previously said that it would accept equivalent documents issued in EU countries.

Anyone not falling into these categories can get the certificate by testing negative for Covid-19, which must be carried out within 48 hours of travel.

“Vaccination and recovery certifications will be valid for six months, the one relating to the negative test will be valid for 48 hours.”

“Certifications issued in European Union member states are recognised as equivalent, as are those issued in a third country following a vaccination recognised in the European Union,” stated the Italian government’s April decree.

Sileri has called for simplification of the process, saying, “If you’ve had the vaccine, in a few weeks you shouldn’t need the swab anymore.”

READ ALSO: Indoor dining and later curfew: Italy’s new timetable for easing Covid-19 restrictions

He also advocated postponing the second shot of a vaccine if the appointment falls while a traveller is on holiday.

If this is not possible, “vaccination hubs can be organised in holiday resorts”, although this is not confirmed, and Sileri conceded “it will be a question of putting all this in place and matching needs with reality”.

The undersecretary’s comments came after Italy announced it would be relaxing its nationwide coronavirus measures, extending the nightly curfew and dropping six regions into the lowest-risk white zone classification.

Beaches officially opened at the weekend, and tourists from the EU, Britain and Israel were allowed entry into the country on Sunday without the need to quarantine for five days.

Meanwhile for travellers from the US, Italy is once again open to tourists – but only to those arriving on Covid-tested flights.

Stay up to date with Italy’s travel rules by checking The Local’s travel section and checking the Italian Health Ministry’s website (in English).

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MONKEYPOX

Semen ‘a vehicle’ for monkeypox infection, say Italian health experts

Researchers in Italy who were first to identify the presence of monkeypox in semen are broadening their testing, saying early results suggest sperm can transmit infection.

Semen 'a vehicle' for monkeypox infection, say Italian health experts

A team at Rome’s Spallanzani Hospital, which specialises in infectious diseases, revealed in a study published on June 2nd that the virus DNA was detected in semen of three out of four men diagnosed with monkeypox.

They have since expanded their work, according to director Francesco Vaia, who said researchers have found the presence of monkeypox in the sperm of 14 infected men out of 16 studied.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How is Italy dealing with rising monkeypox cases?

“This finding tells us that the presence of the virus in sperm is not a rare or random occurrence,” Vaia told AFP in an interview.

He added: “The infection can be transmitted during sexual intercourse by direct contact with skin lesions, but our study shows that semen can also be a vehicle for infection.”

Researchers at Spallanzani identified Italy’s first cases of monkeypox, found in two men who had recently returned from the Canary Islands.

The latest results reported by Vaia have not yet been published or subject to peer review.

Since early May, a surge of monkeypox cases has been detected outside of the West and Central African countries where the disease has long been endemic. Most of the new cases have been in Western Europe.

More than 3,400 confirmed cases and one death have now been reported to the World Health Organisation from more than 50 countries this year.

The vast majority of cases so far have been observed in men who have sex with men, of young age, chiefly in urban areas, in “clustered social and sexual networks”, according to the WHO.

It is investigating cases of semen testing positive for monkeypox, but has maintained the virus is primarily spread through close contact.

Meg Doherty, director of the WHO’s global HIV, hepatitis and sexually-transmitted infection programmes, said last week: “We are not calling this a sexually-transmitted infection.”

Could antivirals curb the spread of monkeypox?

Spallanzani researchers are now trying to ascertain how long the virus is present in sperm after the onset of symptoms.

In one patient, virus DNA was detected three weeks after symptoms first appeared, even after lesions had disappeared – a phenomenon Vaia said had been seen in the past in viral infections such as Zika.

That could indicate that the risk of transmission of monkeypox could be lowered by the use of condoms in the weeks after recovery, he said.

The Spallanzani team is also looking at vaginal secretions to study the presence of the virus.

A significant finding from the first study was that when the virus was cultured in the lab, it was “present in semen as a live, infectious virus efficient in reproducing itself”, Vaia told AFP.

Vaia cautioned that there remained many unanswered questions on monkeypox, including whether antiviral therapies could shorten the time in which people with the virus could infect others.

Another is whether the smallpox vaccine could protect people from the monkeypox virus.

“To study this we will analyse people who were vaccinated 40 years ago before human smallpox was declared to have disappeared,” Vaia said.

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