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Reader question: What happens if I test positive for Covid-19 while visiting Italy?

As many people prepare for long-awaited trips to Italy this summer, readers have contacted The Local to ask what happens if you test positive for Covid-19 during your stay. Here's what you need to know about the current travel rules.

Reader question: What happens if I test positive for Covid-19 while visiting Italy?
Photo by PIERRE TEYSSOT / AFP

Question: I’m planning a break in Italy and know the entry requirements before travel. But what do I do if I get Covid-19 while in Italy and test positive before I come home?

Travelling to Italy entails a different set of rules depending on where you’re coming from; see the rules on travel to Italy from any country here.

But after meeting the rules applied to your country of origin and making it into Italian territory, what happens if you catch the virus while in Italy?

Here’s a closer look at the rules in place.

What should I do if I have Covid-19 symptoms?

If you think you have symptoms of coronavirus while in Italy you should contact the local area’s health authority, or ASL (Azienda Sanitaria Locale) – the regional numbers are listed here on the Italian Ministry of Health website.

If you suspect you may have Covid-19, you need to minimise your contact with anyone else. The authorities will help you arrange an emergency test. Do not go to a medical centre or pharmacy in the meantime.

 Photo: PIERRE TEYSSOT/AFP

If you’re not sure which number you should call, the national Covid-19 helpline 1500 is available 24 hours a day and will direct you to the relevant authority.

Some readers have told us that they cannot access the 800 numbers and the 1500 freephone from a non-Italian phone number, however. In this case, you’ll need to scroll down to the bottom of the page to find the number to call from abroad (‘dall’estero’), which should work using an international number in Italy.

It’s worth noting that if, for any reason whatsoever, you spend 48 hours or two consecutive nights in hospital, you may also be required to take a coronavirus test in some regions, according to the UK government guidelines.

What if I test positive for the virus?

“If you test positive (in Italy), you will be required to quarantine, which may last from 10 days to three weeks,” the UK government’s travel advice page warns.

The guidance from the Italian Ministry of Health says there is a 10-day minimum quarantine requirement if you should test positive for a variant of concern (VOC).

According to the EU’s European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control guidelines, the VOCs are the Alpha, Beta, Gamma and Delta variants.

The Italian government’s latest circular contains criteria for isolation periods. Particularly related to the 202012/01 variant, commonly known as the Alpha variant, the advice stated, “Asymptomatic persons who test positive for SARS-CoV-2 may re-enter the community after a period of isolation of at least 10 days from the onset of the positive finding.”

On the other hand, if you’re symptomatic, you’ll need to be without symptoms for at least the last three days, “after which an antigenic or molecular test is performed,” according to Italy’s Ministry of Health.

READ ALSO: Italy confirms it will recognise Covid certificates from five non-EU countries

Photo by Ludovic Marin / AFP

This is also the procedure if you test positive for a variant of concern other than the Alpha variant. The only difference being a molecular test would be required – an antigen test is not listed as an accepted way to end isolation in this case.

If you continue to test positive, your quarantine period could be extended to 21 days.

Every Italian regional authority is free to set its own coronavirus containment rules above and beyond those required by the national government, and some areas appear to have very strict protocols in place.

According to media reports, groups of French tourists in Sicily have been confined to Covid hotels for 21 days after testing positive on the island.

Where would I quarantine if I test positive?

You’ll need to self-isolate in accommodation such as a holiday rental, a second home, a friend’s house (provided you avoid contact with them). A hotel may also be an option, if they agree to host you while observing the quarantine period.

If you are unable to find suitable accommodation, local authorities may require that you stay at a facility of their choosing for the required isolation period – a so-called ‘Covid hotel’. This would be at your own expense.

While travellers are advised to make sure that their travel insurance policy would cover them for such eventualities, these policies may in fact be invalidated if your home country has advised against travel to Italy at the moment.

In the UK, insurer ABTA for example states that its policies do not cover “travel to destinations where the FCDO advises against all but essential travel – this is easy to check.”

Insurance policies may be similarly affected in the US, which is currently advising unvaccinated people against travel, while Canada’s advice is to avoid non-essential travel outside Canada until further notice.

In some cases you may be eligible for state financial assistance, but you would need to check with your home country’s government what you could claim.

How do I get tested in Italy to return home?

If your country’s rules state that you need to get a negative test result for return travel, there are plenty of options for this in Italy including going to a pharmacy, a lab or a testing centre.

You’ll need to check what the requirements are to return to your home country to ensure you get the right type of test within the permitted timeframe, which could be between 48 and 72 hours before departure.

Here’s a full guide to the type of tests available, the costs, and where you can get them in Italy.

Please check our homepage or travel news section for the most recent reports on any changes to the Italian travel rules.

For more information about the current coronavirus-related restrictions on travel to Italy please see the Foreign Ministry’s website (in English).

Member comments

  1. What is not addresses is that many flights from New York and California to Italy transit through Heathrow. Are those fully vaccinated people on flights that transit through the UK exempt from the quarantine required by passengers who start their journey in the UK

    1. No – they are not -transiting UK/LHR triggers the 5 day quarantine. So US (and other) travelers should avoid transiting UK if their destination is Italy.

  2. If I test positive in Italy, and want to avoid a “Covid hotel,” I would need to find lodging immediately, that very day. A place that will accept Covid-positive guests. Is this a realistic possibility? A friend’s house perhaps, otherwise it seems very unlikely.

  3. One question that would be useful to address are these conditions:

    1) one is in Italy (EU) on a tourist visa allowing 90 days of stay within a 180 day period
    2) one tests positive for covid-19 requiring a quarantine
    3) complying with the quarantine causes on to overstay their visa

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TRAVEL NEWS

UK border control strikes threaten Christmas travel chaos to and from Italy

Planned industrial action by British border force staff is threatening to complicate or even ruin Christmas travel plans for thousands of people going between Italy and the UK over the festive period.

UK border control strikes threaten Christmas travel chaos to and from Italy

Travellers arriving at the UK’s biggest airports over the Christmas period could face severe delays entering the country and even risk having their flights cancelled as a result of strike action by British border force staff.

The planned strike action would take place from December 23rd until December 26th and then from December 28th to New Year’s Eve.

The UK’s Home Secretary Suella Braverman warned travellers heading to and from the UK over Christmas and New Year to expect severe disruption and to rethink travel plans if strike action goes ahead.

“If they go ahead with those strikes there will be undeniable serious disruption caused to many thousands of people who have holiday plans,” the minister said. “I really want to urge people who have got plans to travel abroad to think carefully about their plans because they may well be impacted.”

A senior UK Border Force official told Britain’s i newspaper that “travellers can expect long queues at the airports affected by the strikes. We’re looking at similar waits as when we had all the Covid protocol issues in summer 2021 when queues of 10 to 12 hours were not unusual.”

“Passengers should also expect flight cancellations due to staff shortages,” they added, “so should keep in touch with their airlines before travel.”

The government has been preparing for the strike by training 600 soldiers to check passports. Reports have claimed up to 30 percent of flights could be affected if strike action goes ahead.

The Public and Commercial Services union (PCS) has voted for strike action over pay and conditions from December 23rd until the end of the year, with the exception of December 27th, that will affect all major UK airports.

The walkouts threaten to ruin Christmas travel plans for thousands of people coming from around the world, including Britons who live in Italy hoping to return home for the festive period, perhaps for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as those wanting to enjoy a warmer Christmas break in Italy.

British media outlets estimate that as many as two million passengers have booked to fly in and out of Britain over the Christmas period on at least 10,000 flights scheduled to arrive at the affected airports.

Where are the walkouts?

Around 1000 Border Force staff are set to walk out from all of the UK’s busiest airports, including Heathrow (Terminals 2,3,4 and 5), Gatwick, Birmingham, Manchester, Glasgow, Cardiff, and also the port of Newhaven.

The strikes will fundamentally affect passport checks for arrivals into Britain, as 75 percent of passport control staff are PCS union members.

Christmas is already one of the busiest travel times of the year, and walkouts from border staff are likely to cause severe delays and cancellations. Some British media outlets are even reporting that passengers could be left to wait on their planes on the runway, something that would then have a knock-on effect on other incoming flights.

Though passports aren’t usually checked on outbound flights, arriving aircraft often turn around and set off on their next outbound journey within an hour or two. If queues for arrivals become so bad that passengers are kept on the runway, outbound flights will be delayed and departures could be cancelled.

A Home Office spokesperson said in a statement that “passengers should be prepared for potential disruption.”

Various affected airports have made preemptive statements expecting major delays and cancellations.

“We expect it will be necessary for airlines to cancel some services on the days impacted by strike action to ensure the number of arriving passengers aligns with lower UK Border Force resources,” a spokesman from Manchester airport said in a statement. “Arriving passengers should also be prepared for much longer immigration queues on strike days, owing to reduced Border Force staffing levels.”

A Heathrow spokesperson said: “The Home Office advises that immigration and customs checks may take longer during peak times on strike days… Passengers are advised to check their flight status with their airline before travelling.” they added.

The British Transport Minister, Baroness Vere, has said that “the government does have mitigations in place,” which is thought to include army personnel and volunteers filling in for the striking staff.


What if I have flights booked?

As the strike action has just been announced, normal cancellation rules still apply (for now) so don’t cancel your flight just yet. If your flight is cancelled by the airline, however, as is expected for many carriers in the coming weeks, your regular rights will apply, including the possibility of being flown via another route, even on another airline if necessary, and hotels should be provided if you are kept overnight.

However, it is worth noting that as Christmas is a peak travel period anyway, finding extra seats as flights are cancelled to soften the impact of the strikes may be difficult.

It remains to be seen if, when, and how many flights will be cancelled. Cancellations are expected by all major airports, who have advised that passengers check the status of their flights before travelling.

For those who are set on travelling, expect severe delays at passport control, and keep an eye on the status of your flight in the coming weeks. 

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