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HEALTH

Reader question: What kind of coronavirus test do I need to take for travel to Italy?

Italy has started to relax many of its travel restrictions, but all arrivals still need to show proof of a negative coronavirus test. Here's what you need to know.

Reader question: What kind of coronavirus test do I need to take for travel to Italy?
Photo: Piero Cruciatti/AFP
 
Question: I will be travelling to Italy from another EU country soon. Is a negative coronavirus test result still required? And what type of test do I need to take?

As of May 16th, Italy has scrapped its quarantine requirement for all travellers from EU member states, including for those travelling for non-essential reasons. But these arrivals are still required to show a negative test result (just one, not two as was previously the case).

From most other countries at the moment stricter rules, including both quarantine and testing requirements, remain in place in almost all cases. See the Italian government’s entry rules by country here.

There are no exemptions to the testing requirement at present for fully-vaccinated travellers to Italy from any country, though the EU is looking at changing the rules.

Some of the travellers who are now allowed to enter Italy again from List C countries have written to The Local to ask whether they can take a rapid coronavirus test, or whether it’s mandatory to take a PCR swab test.

What are the types of test you can take?

Italy’s health ministry says that the results of both PCR and antigenic swab tests are accepted.

A PCR (molecular) test – this is the more reliable, but also more time-consuming test which tells you if you are actively infected with coronavirus. It involves taking a nose or throat swab and examining it for traces of the virus’s genetic material. The sample has to be sent to a lab for analysis, which means results can take around a day.

It’s considered the most reliable form of testing, even if it’s not 100 percent accurate. This kind of test can be taken alone, or may be needed to confirm the results of an antigen or antibody test.

An antigen test (sometmes known as a ‘rapid swab’ test) is also conducted via a nasal swab, but the sample is tested for proteins that are found on the surface of the virus – a simpler and quicker process which means you can get the result within around 15-20 minutes. These are the tests being used for the screening of passengers at airports, stations and ferry terminals in Italy.

READ ALSO: How you can get a free coronavirus test in 11 Italian cities

Italy does not appear to accept the results of sierological (blood) tests or rapid home tests, also known as lateral flow tests.

All travellers need a ‘green certificate’ proving their negative test result, according to the Italian health ministry. This is the name being used for a piece of paper from a testing centre which states your result. The Italian government has not given any requirements for the certificate to be in Italian, English or any particular language.

According to the health ministry’s guidance, travellers eligible for entry from “list C” countries must:

In the event of failure to produce a green certificate proving a negative swab test, passengers are subject to the following preventive measures:

  • ten days of self-isolation at the address provided in the digital Passenger Locator Form
  • swab test at the end of the ten-day isolation period.

Children aged 2 and under are exempt from the requirement.

As the travel rules are subject to change at short notice, anyone planning to travel to Italy is advised to check this official Italian government travel calculator, which gives the current requirements for entry from each country (in English).

Reader questions:

Travellers may also need to take a coronavirus test before travelling home from Italy. You can find testing stations at major Italian airports, and we have a list of testing centres which provide results in English here.

For more information on the requirements for travel to Italy (in English):

You can also call the Italian coronavirus information line:

  • From Italy: 1500 (toll-free number)
  • From abroad: +39 0232008345 , +39 0283905385

See the latest news updates from Italy in The Local’s travel section.

Member comments

  1. I have a problem with the test being taken 48 hour before. If you are coming from Australia or even the US with a connection, how is it possible you can actually make this deadline?! Most countries ask for 72 hours- a little more reasonable.
    Just think: you take your test 48 hours before your scheduled entry into Italy let’s say Tuesday at 10AM US time.
    You wait about 24 hours before you get the result. Sometimes longer in my experience. You get to let’s say Amsterdam where you connect on your way to Florence. You then wait four hours for your flight. Remember you’ve also lost 6 hours due to time change…guess what? You’re over the 48 hours! Ridiculous! And that’s the US. Imagine China or New Zealand!

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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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