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HEALTH

Italy’s green pass ‘should last a year’, says health undersecretary

The certificate that allows people to travel to and within Italy should be extended from six months to a year, stated Italy's health undersecretary on Tuesday.

Italy's green pass 'should last a year', says health undersecretary
(Photo by Alberto PIZZOLI / AFP)

Italy introduced a so-called ‘green pass‘ to allow tourism to restart following Covid-19 restrictions, and will also be required to allow people to attend larger events such as wedding receptions from June.

READ ALSO: How to get Italy’s coronavirus immunity ‘green pass’ for travel

The document is currently in the form of a paper certificate proving that the holder has been vaccinated, has had Covid-19 and recovered, or has shown a negative test result within the previous 48 hours.

The pass is valid for six months for those who have been vaccinated or have recovered. But the government’s health undersecretary Pierpaolo Sileri said that the validity should be extended to a year for those who have been vaccinated, as “it is very likely that protection will last for that period.”

“However, the extension should be limited to those who have had the two doses of vaccine,” he told Rai Radio 1.

“It is clear that we have not seen a year of vaccinations, but it is very likely that protection is there,” Sileri said.

“But it should only be extended to those who have completed the vaccination cycle. It is true that the first dose gives immunity, but full, standardised immunity comes after the second dose,” he added.

READ ALSO: Italy pushes back Covid curfew to 11pm and makes six regions low-risk ‘white’ zones

Vaccinations accepted include Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca or the one dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

Those who have been vaccinated should be issued a certificate proving their immunity. This is the document currently being used as the ‘green pass’ in Italy.

If you’ve previously had Covid-19 and recovered, you’ll need proof by getting a document certifying that from your local health authority (ASL) or doctor.

Testing centres can also issue paper certificates proving a negative test result, though these are valid only for 48 hours.

Pharmacies in Italy also offer rapid testing for around 20-30 euros, and you can get a rapid antigen test for free at train stations in 11 Italian cities – the results of these rapid tests can be used for the green pass.

(Photo by MARCO BERTORELLO / AFP)

For those travelling from outside of Italy, the Italian government has previously said that it would accept equivalent documents issued in EU countries.

Anyone not falling into these categories can get the certificate by testing negative for Covid-19, which must be carried out within 48 hours of travel.

“Vaccination and recovery certifications will be valid for six months, the one relating to the negative test will be valid for 48 hours.”

“Certifications issued in European Union member states are recognised as equivalent, as are those issued in a third country following a vaccination recognised in the European Union,” stated the Italian government’s April decree.

Sileri has called for simplification of the process, saying, “If you’ve had the vaccine, in a few weeks you shouldn’t need the swab anymore.”

READ ALSO: Indoor dining and later curfew: Italy’s new timetable for easing Covid-19 restrictions

He also advocated postponing the second shot of a vaccine if the appointment falls while a traveller is on holiday.

If this is not possible, “vaccination hubs can be organised in holiday resorts”, although this is not confirmed, and Sileri conceded “it will be a question of putting all this in place and matching needs with reality”.

The undersecretary’s comments came after Italy announced it would be relaxing its nationwide coronavirus measures, extending the nightly curfew and dropping six regions into the lowest-risk white zone classification.

Beaches officially opened at the weekend, and tourists from the EU, Britain and Israel were allowed entry into the country on Sunday without the need to quarantine for five days.

Meanwhile for travellers from the US, Italy is once again open to tourists – but only to those arriving on Covid-tested flights.

Stay up to date with Italy’s travel rules by checking The Local’s travel section and checking the Italian Health Ministry’s website (in English).

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HEALTH

Q&A: What you need to know about Italy’s West Nile virus outbreak

As Italy records a surge in cases of West Nile fever, we look at what the disease is and where in the country it's spreading.

Q&A: What you need to know about Italy's West Nile virus outbreak

Mosquitos are unfortunately one downside of summer in Italy. But as well as being a nuisance, they may also pose a health risk in the country – one of the few in Europe to record cases of West Nile virus (WNV)

READ ALSO: Cases of West Nile fever surge in northern Italy

Last week Italy recorded 50 more cases of the mosquito-borne virus, bringing the total number of infections to 144 according to the latest report from Italy’s Higher Health Institute (ISS).

This marked a 53-percent increase in cases against the previous week, while ten people have died so far.

As the number of infections continues to rise, here are the answers to the most pressing questions about the disease and the outbreak in Italy.

What is it?

The West Nile Virus (WNV) is a single-stranded RNA virus that can cause West Nile fever in humans.

It’s a member of the Flavivirus family together with other endemic viruses such as the Zika and Dengue viruses.

The virus was first identified in 1937 in Uganda’s West Nile district but has since spread to many other parts of the world, to the point that it is now considered indigenous to Africa, the Middle East, Asia and Australia. 

Carried by birds, West Nile virus is transmitted to humans by mosquitoes.

The West Nile virus is primarily transmitted by mosquitoes of the Culex species, which infect humans and other mammals through their bite, according to Italy’s health ministry.

There is no evidence that human-to-human transmission is possible.

Where are cases being reported in Italy?

Infections have been largely concentrated in the north of the country, especially in the Veneto region, where six people have now died of the disease. Other deaths were recorded in Lombardy, Piedmont and Emilia-Romagna.

The city of Padua, which is located in Veneto’s mainland, around 35 kilometres away from the Adriatic coast, is currently regarded as the hotspot of the virus. 

It isn’t yet clear why Veneto has been the worst-hit region so far, but experts fear that its marshy lowlands might be the perfect breeding ground for disease-carrying mosquitoes. 

A mosquito of the Culex species viewed under a microscope.

Mosquitoes of the Culex species, a specimen of which is pictured above, are responsible for transmitting the West Nile Virus to humans and other mammals. Photo by Jon CHERRY Getty Images / AFP

How severe is the outbreak in Italy?

West Nile virus is not new to Italy. However, this summer has brought the highest number of cases recorded yet.

National infection levels remain relatively low but the country has by far the largest number of cases in Europe.

According to the most recent report from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), dated August 3rd, 94 out of 120 recorded cases were in Italy.

Greece had 23 reported cases. Romania and Slovakia had two and one respectively. 

Italy is the only European country that has reported fatalities.

What are the symptoms?

According to the Italian Higher Health Institute (ISS), around 80 percent of infected people show no symptoms whatsoever.

In symptomatic cases, however, symptoms generally resemble those of a common flu and include fever, headaches, nausea and diarrhoea. 

The infection is usually only dangerous for people with weakened immune systems such as the elderly, and the most severe symptoms occur in fewer than one percent of infected people.

In healthy people, the virus is unlikely to cause more than a headache or sore throat, and symptoms generally last only a few days.

According to the data currently available, around one in 150 infected people can show symptoms as serious as partial vision loss, convulsions and paralysis. 

In very rare cases (around 0.1 percent, or one in 1000) the disease can cause brain infections (encephalitis or meningitis) which may eventually be fatal.

Brazilian biologists handle mosquito larvae.

There is currently no vaccine against West Nile disease, though several are being tested. Photo by Apu GOMES / AFP

Is there a cure?

There is no vaccine against West Nile fever. “Currently vaccines are being studied, but for the moment prevention consists mainly in reducing exposure to mosquito bites,” the ISS states.

There is also no specific treatment for the disease caused by the virus.

Patients showing the more serious symptoms are usually admitted to hospital and treated with IV fluids and assisted ventilation.

What should you do to protect yourself?

Seeing as there is currently no vaccine against the virus, the best way to protect oneself is by reducing exposure to mosquitoes as much as possible.

Italian health authorities have listed a number of official recommendations to help residents avoid mosquito bites. These include: 

  • Use repellent
  • Wear long-sleeved shirts and long trousers when being outdoors and especially during ​​mosquitoes’ peak activity times, i.e. sunrise and sunset
  • Use mosquito nets on your windows or sleep in rooms with air-conditioning and keep the windows closed
  • Make sure there are no pools of stagnant water around your house

See more information about West Nile virus in Italy on the health ministry’s website.

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