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Italy orders Covid screening for all arrivals from China

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AFP/The Local - [email protected]
Italy orders Covid screening for all arrivals from China
A passenger arrives to undergo a test for Covid-19 at Milan’s Malpensa Airport, which reintroduced screening on Wednesday for arrivals from China. (Photo by Piero Cruciatti / AFP)

Italy said on Wednesday it was reinstating mandatory coronavirus tests for arrivals from China following an explosion in cases there, with Milan's Malpensa airport finding around half of all passengers tested were positive.

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Health Minister Orazio Schillaci announced on Wednesday that he had ordered mandatory Covid tests for all passengers coming from China.

He said swabs on arrival would be required "for all passengers from China and in transit through Italy".

READ ALSO: Why has Italy ordered Covid tests for all arrivals from China?

"The measure is essential to ensure the surveillance and identification of any variants of the virus in order to protect the Italian population," he added.

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The testing requirement came into force immediately on Wednesday, as several Italian airports had already begun screening arrivals from China.

On Thursday, the Italian foreign ministry confirmed in a press release that the new rules, in force until January 31st, meant all passengers travelling to Italy from China must show a negative test result upon boarding and also undergo an antigen test upon arrival in Italy.

Those who tested positive on arrival would be required to isolate in Italy, it confirmed.

Italy still has isolation rules in place which require anyone who tests positive for coronavirus to isolate for between five and 14 days.

Lombardy, the first region to impose a lockdown when coronavirus hit Europe in early 2020, has testing arrivals from China at Milan's Malpensa airport for several days, the foreign ministry said earlier on Wednesday.

Authorities at Malpensa said on Wednesday that almost one in two arrivals from China had tested positive for coronavirus, news agency Ansa reported.

Passengers who tested positive on arrival at Fiumicino were being isolated in “special facilities” on Wednesday,  Ansa reported.

Italy was on Thursday pushing for EU countries to adopt similar measures, though none had indicated that they planned to do so at the time of writing.

Experts from Italy's Spallanzani hospital for infectious diseases on Wednesday called for "international cohesion" on the matter in a statement on the current Covid-19 situation.

Spallanzani's statement said the concern "is that, in a country [like China] with a high percentage of unvaccinated people, in which ineffective vaccines have been used that give low population protection, such a strong exponential growth in infections could generate the selection of a new variant, much more immune-evasive and transmissible". 

Coronavirus infections have surged in China as it unwinds tight controls that had torpedoed the economy and sparked nationwide protests.

China on Monday scrapped quarantine for inbound travellers from January 8th onwards, dismantling the last remaining piece of its stringent zero-Covid policy and ending some of the world's harshest border restrictions.

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Chinese authorities have said the scale of the outbreak is now "impossible" to track and narrowed the criteria for defining Covid deaths.

China's Center for Disease Prevention and Control reported 5,231 new Covid cases and three deaths nationwide Wednesday - likely a drastic undercount since people are no longer required to declare infections to authorities.

Authorities are using data from online surveys, hospital visits, demand for fever medicines and emergency calls to "make up for shortcomings in (officially) reported figures", disease control official Yin Wenwu said at a press briefing on Tuesday.

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