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COVID-19 RULES

Italy debates further Covid rule changes as daily cases near 100,000

Italy announced a new record high 98,020 Covid cases in the last 24 hours on Wednesday as the government considers further tightening health restrictions.

People wear face masks as they walk in central Rome.
Italy is expected to announce new restrictions just days after a new Covid-19 decree came into force. Photo: Vincenzo PINTO/AFP

The daily positive figure is a sharp increase on Tuesday’s 78,313 cases, the previous record high since the start of the pandemic.

A total of 1,029,429 tests were carried out on Wednesday, compared to 1,034,677 on Tuesday, the data from Italy’s health ministry showed. The test positivity rate rose from 7.5 percent to 9.5 percent.

Covid-19: Italy to review quarantine rules as Omicron cases soar

There were 136 more Covid deaths reported on Wednesday, compared to 202 on Tuesday.

Intensive care cases increased by 40 to a total of 1,185 nationwide, and hospital admissions were up 489 to 10,578.

The figures came as the Italian government called a meeting on Wednesday evening to discuss further changes to the country’s health measures – just days after a new Covid-19 decree came into force.

The Italian government’s panel of scientific experts, the comitato tecnico scientifico or technical scientific committee (CTS). is expected to decide on Wednesday whether a cut to the quarantine period should be allowed for triple-vaccinated people who come into contact with a positive case.

EXPLAINED: How to get a Covid-19 vaccine booster shot in Italy

The change is expected to come amid concerns about the economic impact of millions of people having to quarantine in Italy at the same time.

Senior health ministry figures earlier this week predicted Italy would soon exceed 100,000 daily cases – meaning up to half a million more people could be required to quarantine every day.

Hundreds of trains are being cancelled daily, operator Trenord said on Wednesday, due to a high number of staff absences.

The Italian government is set to make a decision on Wednesday night following the scientific panel’s recommendations.

It will also discuss whether to extend a ‘super’ or reinforced green pass obligation to all workplaces, according to reports from news agency Ansa on Wednesday citing government sources.

A move to expand the country’s current vaccine mandate would face strong opposition from within the coalition government, however, and looks unlikely to be approved at Wednesday’s meeting according to La Repubblica.

Italy’s reinforced green pass. introduced in early December, can only be obtained via vaccination or recovery, and not with a negative test result.

For further details about Italy’s current Covid-19 health measures please see the Italian Health Ministry’s website (available in English).

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COVID-19 RULES

‘Not offensive’: Italian minister defends Covid testing rule for China arrivals

Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani defended the policy of testing all arrivals from China for Covid-19 after Beijing said the policy "lacks scientific basis".

'Not offensive': Italian minister defends Covid testing rule for China arrivals

“It seems perfectly normal to me,” Tajani told Italian state broadcaster Rai on Tuesday. “Having a test is a way to protect people’s health. There is nothing offensive about it.”

“Lots of Chinese and Italians coming from China do it (anyway),” he claimed.

READ ALSO: Is the EU likely to reinstate Covid travel restrictions?

Italy was the first European country to make testing on arrival a requirement for passengers arriving on flights from China last week, after a surge in the infection rate there.

Italian Health Minister Orazio Schillaci said on Wednesday that the screening requirement was “essential to ensure the surveillance and identification of any variants of the virus in order to protect the Italian population”.

READ ALSO: Italy pushes for EU-wide China Covid measures as tests show no new variants

France and Spain have since introduced similar rules (as well as non-EU countries including the UK and USA) and there is now a meeting scheduled for Wednesday of the EU Integrated Policy Response Capability to discuss coordinating measures.

Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni said the screening policy would be “ineffective” if not done on a European level, as only people arriving on direct flights from China were being tested in Italy, not those with stopovers.

But the Chinese government on Tuesday hit out at countries introducing a policy of mandatory testing for people arriving from China.

“Some countries have taken entry restrictions targeting only Chinese travellers,” foreign ministry spokesperson Mao Ning was quoted as saying at a briefing by AFP.

“This lacks scientific basis and some practices are unacceptable”.

She said Beijing may “take countermeasures based on the principle of reciprocity”.

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