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.

Published: 28 December 2022 15:32 CET

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 told parliament swabs would be required “for all passengers from China and in transit through Italy”, with more details expected to follow in an ordinance.

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

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

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.

Swabs collected at Malpensa in recent days are being analysed by the national health ministry, to help identify any new variants.

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

Rome’s Fiumicino airport had also introduced testing for arrivals from China on Wednesday, local authorities confirmed.

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

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

US officials said late on Tuesday they were considering Covid entry restrictions on travellers from China, after countries including Japan and India introduced PCR testing on arrival for Chinese passengers.

“There are mounting concerns in the international community on the ongoing Covid-19 surges in China and the lack of transparent data, including viral genomic sequence data, being reported from the PRC,” the US officials said, referring to the People’s Republic of China.

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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