Italy has ordered mandatory coronavirus tests for all travelers arriving from China, the health minister announced on Wednesday.
Orazio Schillaci said the tests — including antigen swabs and virus sequencing — were essential to ensure the surveillance and identification of any COVID-19 variants and protect the Italian population.
The health minister has already been following the results of swabs carried out on passengers arriving at Malpensa airport from China since December 24, the health ministry said, and recommended the sequencing of all variants.
Out of 212 swabs carried out at Malpensa airport on travelers arriving directly from China on two flights on Boxing Day, 97 were positive for COVID-19, reports La Stampa. Those who tested positive were isolated, with contact tracing initiated.
Schillaci’s announcement on Wednesday comes in the wake of China’s lifting of its zero-COVID policies, which included months-long lockdowns. The country’s U-turn on the strict measures is already leading to its biggest outbreak of COVID-19 infections since the pandemic’s start, with medical staff struggling to cope.
Other countries, including Japan, India and Malaysia have already implemented measures for travelers arriving from China, reports Reuters. The United States is also considering new measures for those coming to the U.S. from China, the outlet reports.