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TRAVEL: Italy introduces random Covid testing for arrivals

The Italian government has introduced spot testing for anyone entering the country for tourism, work or any other reason alongside existing testing and vaccination requirements.

Random Covid testing is in place for anyone entering Italy.
Random Covid testing is in place for anyone entering Italy. Photo by Marco Bertorello / AFP

Italy tightened its Covid-19 controls at ports, airports, stations and borders with random antigenic or molecular tests for arrivals as of December 25th.

The decision came as part of a new decree to curb the soaring infections fuelled by the Omicron variant, announced by Health Minister Roberto Speranza on Thursday December 23rd.

EXPLAINED: What changes under Italy’s new Covid decree?

If a person is swabbed when entering Italy and tests positive, they will be required to undergo isolation for a period of ten days.

Travellers who have tested positive and who have no suitable accommodation can be required to stay in a ‘Covid hotel’ where they can be monitored by local health authorities, according to the decree text.

This stay would be at the traveller’s own expense, with costs varying from region to region.

“In order to contain the spread of the Sars-Cov-2 virus, the Offices of Maritime, Air and Border Health and of Health Assistance to Aircrew of the Ministry of Health will carry out antigenic or molecular tests on travellers entering the national territory, n a random basis, at airports, maritime and land terminals,” reads the decree.

The Italian government has earmarked over €3.5 million to finance the move throughout 2022.

As well as random testing for all arrivals to Italy, the decree has brought back the obligation to wear masks outdoors, temporarily banned public events and will also shorten the validity of Italy’s ‘green pass’ Covid health certificate.

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Some changes were effective immediately as of Saturday, December 25th and other rule changes are set to come in during January and February.

Authorities have announced other possible changes in response to the spiking Omicron variant in Italy, such as reviewing the seven-day Covid quarantine rules for those who are fully vaccinated.

This came amid predictions the country could soon see 100,000 new cases a day.

Italy marked a record 44,595 coronavirus infections in 24 hours last week, the highest daily number of infections seen in the country since the start of the pandemic.

See the latest news and updates from The Local on Italy’s current Covid-19 health measures and travel restrictions.

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COVID-19 RULES

Italy lifts mask mandate for private sector workers

Masks will no longer be required in the workplace but Italian companies will have the right to impose restrictions for employees deemed "at risk".

Italy lifts mask mandate for private sector workers

Representatives from the Italian Ministry of Labour, Ministry of Health and all major national unions collectively signed off on Thursday a new “shared protocol” (protocollo condiviso) for the implementation of anti-Covid measures in private workplaces. 

Although the full text of the bill will only be made available to the public sometime next week, portions of the document have already been released to the media, thus disclosing the government’s next steps in the fight against the virus.

The most relevant update concerns face masks, which will no longer be mandatory in private workplaces. 

However, the text specifies, FFP2 face masks remain “an important protective item aimed at safeguarding workers’ health”. As such, employers will have the right to autonomously impose the use of face coverings on categories of workers considered “at risk”.

READ ALSO: Italy’s transport mask rule extended to September as Covid rate rises

Notably, face coverings may remain mandatory for those working in “indoor settings shared by multiple employees” or even in “outdoor settings where social distancing may not be practicable”. Individuals with pre-existing medical conditions (soggetti fragili) may also be subject to such rules, which, it is worth reminding, are left to the employer’s discretion. 

Alongside mask-related restrictions, employers will also have the right to have their staff undergo temperature checks prior to entering the workplace. In such cases, anyone with a body temperature higher than 37.5C will be denied access to the workplace and will be asked to temporarily self-isolate pending further indications from their own doctor.

In line with previous measures, companies will be required to continue supplying sanitising products free of charge and regulate access to common areas (canteens, smoking areas, etc.) so as to avoid gatherings.

Additionally, employers will be advised to keep incentivising smart working (lavoro agile), as it has proved to be “a valuable tool to curb infection, especially for at-risk individuals”.

Provided that the country’s infection curve registers no significant changes, the updated protocol will remain in place until October 31st, when it will yet again be reviewed by the relevant governmental and social parties. 

With the latest round of measures, Italy has now scrapped all Covid-related health measures, except the requirement to wear face masks on public transport (though not on planes) and in healthcare settings, and self-isolation provisions for those testing positive. 

READ ALSO: At a glance: What are the Covid-19 rules in Italy now?

Italy’s infection curve has been rising significantly since the beginning of June. From June 1st to June 14th, Covid’s R (spreading rate) rate rose back over 1 for the first time since April 8th. Also, from June 17th to June 23rd, the virus’s incidence rate was 504 cases every 100,000 residents, up by 62 per cent on the previous week.

According to Claudio Mastroianni, Professor of Infectious Diseases at Sapienza University of Rome, “with 25 per cent of daily Covid swabs coming back positive and a R rate over 1, the infection curve will likely rise at least until mid-July”.

However, albeit acknowledging the rising number of positive cases, Deputy Health Minister Andrea Costa has so far categorically excluded the possibility of re-introducing lapsed Covid measures, saying that it’ll be a “restriction-free summer”.

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