Italy orders COVID-19 testing on travellers from UK, Belgium, Netherlands, Czech Republic

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Italy will make testing for COVID-19 compulsory for people traveling from the United Kingdom, Netherlands, Belgium and the Czech Republic, Health Minister Roberto Speranza said on Wednesday, following growing concerns about rising cases across Europe.

“Infection data are growing across all of Europe and in Italy too”, Speranza wrote on Facebook.

“I’ve signed an order which makes coronavirus testing compulsory for travellers from Belgium, the Netherlands, United Kingdom and Czech Republic”, he said.

Meanwhile, Italy made it mandatory to wear face masks outdoors nationwide in an effort to curb the spread of the coronavirus, as new infections jumped to the highest daily tally since April.

The decree was approved at a cabinet meeting after a steady increase in cases over the last two months. It will probably be effective from Thursday, a government source said.

People wear protective face masks in Turin, northern Italy. EPA-EFE/TINO ROMANO

Several Italian regions including Lazio, around the capital Rome, had already made face masks mandatory.

Data from the Health Ministry showed 3,678 cases were reported in the last 24 hours, up from 2,677 on Tuesday and surging past the 3,000 mark for the first time since April 24.

Italy is still recording far fewer daily cases than other large European countries such as France, Spain and Britain.

Italy was the first country in Europe to be hard-hit by COVID-19 and has the second highest death toll in the continent after Britain, with 36,061 dying since the outbreak flared in February, according to official figures.

Thanks to one of the strictest lockdowns in the world, the government managed to get the contagion under control by the summer but infections are now rising fast.

However, daily COVID-related deaths remain far lower than during the first wave of Italy’s epidemic six months ago.

Some 31 people died of the virus on Wednesday, the Health Ministry said, while April 24, the last day with more than 3,000 cases, saw 420 deaths.

The cabinet on Wednesday also approved a decree to extend the COVID-19 state of emergency to Jan. 31.

The state of emergency, originally due to expire in mid-October, gives greater powers to central government, making it easier for officials to bypass the bureaucracy that smothers much decision-making in Italy.

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