Italy orders Covid screening for all arrivals from China

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.

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)

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.

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.

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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How will Friday’s strike affect air travel in Italy?

Airline passengers travelling to or from Italy can expect to face disruption on Friday, March 17th, as a nationwide strike is set to affect airports including Milan Linate and Rome Fiumicino.

How will Friday’s strike affect air travel in Italy?

People travelling to and from Italy can expect delays or cancellations on Friday, March 17th due to a nationwide strike involving airport handling and security staff. 

The demonstration was called by Italian unions earlier this month in protest against staff shortages, precarious work contracts and “gruelling shifts”.

According to the latest Italian media reports, as many as 100,000 passengers might have their travel plans disrupted by Friday’s walkout. 

As is often the case with transport strikes in Italy though, the overall impact of the demonstration will vary greatly from airport to airport.

READ ALSO: Calendar: The transport strikes to expect in Italy this spring

Security and handling staff at Milan’s Linate Airport will strike for 24 hours, which may result in significant delays and queues for passengers checking in or collecting their luggage. 

Check-in desks

Friday’s strike may result in delays and queues for passengers checking in or collecting their luggage. Photo by Andre PAIN / AFP

Aircraft maintenance staff at Rome’s Fiumicino will strike from 1pm to 5pm, with flight departure times likely to be affected. 

Besides Rome and Milan, baggage handlers at Pisa’s Galileo Galilei Airport will strike from 10am to 2pm, as will ground services staff at the Vincenzo Bellini Airport in Catania.

Finally, staff at Air Dolomiti, a subsidiary of Lufthansa operating routes from Germany to 13 different Italian destinations, will strike from 1pm to 5pm.

At the time of writing, there were no details as to how Friday’s demonstration might affect other airports around the country. 

Current industry agreements however mean a number of flights will be guaranteed to operate during the day. 

READ ALSO: Should you travel in Italy when there’s a strike on?

According to Italian civil aviation authority ENAC, all flights departing between 7am and 10am and between 6pm and 9pm will operate as scheduled. 

Intercontinental flights, including those with layovers at Italian airports, will not be affected by the strike. 

Routes between Italy’s mainland and islands (Sicily and Sardinia) deemed ‘essential’ will be guaranteed, Enac confirmed.

A full list of guaranteed services is available on ENAC’s website

You can keep up to date with the latest strike news from Italy HERE.