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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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COVID-19 VACCINES

Italy’s deputy health minister under fire after casting doubt on Covid vaccines

Opposition leaders called for health undersecretary Marcello Gemmato to resign on Tuesday after the official said he was not "for or against" vaccines.

Italy's deputy health minister under fire after casting doubt on Covid vaccines

Gemmato, a pharmacist and member of Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni’s far-right Brothers of Italy party, made the remark during an appearance on the political talkshow ReStart on Rai 2 on Monday evening.

READ ALSO: Covid vaccines halved Italy’s death toll, study finds

In a widely-shared clip, the official criticises the previous government’s approach to the Covid pandemic, claiming that for a large part of the crisis Italy had the highest death rate and third highest ‘lethality’ rate (the proportion of Covid patients who died of the disease).

When journalist Aldo Cazzullo interjects to ask whether the toll would have been higher without vaccines, Gemmato responds: “that’s what you say,” and claimed: “We do not have the reverse burden of proof.”

The undersecretary goes on to say that he won’t “fall into the trap of taking a side for or against vaccines”.

After Gemmato’s comments, the president of Italy’s National Federation of Medical Guilds, Filippo Anelli, stressed that official figures showed the Italian vaccination campaign had already prevented some 150,000 deaths, slashing the country’s potential death toll by almost half.

Vaccines also prevented eight million cases of Covid-19, over 500,000 hospitalisations, and more than 55,000 admissions to intensive care, according to a report from Italy’s national health institute (ISS) in April 2021.

Gemmato’s comments provoked calls for him to step down, including from the head of the centre-left Democratic Party, Enrico Letta.

“A health undersecretary who doesn’t take his distance from no-vaxxers is certainly in the wrong job” wrote the leader of the centrist party Action, Carlo Calenda, on Twitter.

Infectious disease expert Matteo Bassetti of Genoa’s San Martino clinic also expressed shock.

“How is it possible to say that there is no scientific proof that vaccines have helped save the lives of millions of people? You just have to read the scientific literature,” Bassetti tweeted. 

In response to the backlash, Gemmato on Tuesday put out a statement saying he believes “vaccines are precious weapons against Covid” and claiming that his words were taken out of context and misused against him.

The Brothers of Italy party was harshly critical of the previous government’s approach to handling the Covid crisis, accusing the former government of using the pandemic as an excuse to “limit freedom” through its use of the ‘green pass’, a proof of vaccination required to access public spaces. 

But since coming into power, Meloni appears to have significantly softened her stance.

Her appointee for health minister, Orazio Schillaci, is a medical doctor who formed part of the team advising the Draghi administration on its handling of the pandemic.

Schillaci, a former dean of the Faculty of Medicine and Surgery at Rome’s Tor Vergata University, has described the former government’s green pass scheme as an “indispensable tool for guaranteeing safety in university classrooms”.

Speaking at a session of the G20 on Tuesday, Meloni referenced the role of vaccines in bringing an end to the Covid pandemic.

“Thanks to the extraordinary work of health personnel, vaccines, prevention, and the accountability of citizens, life has gradually returned to normal,’ the prime minister said in a speech.

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