Rome opts for rapid reaction to Covid risk. As China lifts its restrictive policies and the virus ripples through the country – which might favour the emergence of new variants –, Italy is seeking to lead the way by imposing mandatory screening for inbound passengers and pushing the European Union to do the same.
- The United States, Japan, India and Taiwan followed Italy’s example. However, other EU countries – except for Spain – did not uphold Rome’s call to extend the measures to the entire bloc, resisting changes to the current (lack of) Covid countermeasures.
- Both Italy and Spain were among the hardest-hit countries at the onset of the pandemic in early 2020.
- China, on its part, criticised unilateral testing (which it had maintained until now), reiterated its supposed success in fighting Covid and touted its transparency on infection reporting (despite having stopped publishing Covid-related death figures and having narrowed their definitions, along with testing).
Readiness at home. On Friday, Italian Health Minister Orazio Schillaci published a document with directions to prepare the country “for rapid adaptation of actions and services in the event of increased care demand” – i.e. should Covid cases flare up and add pressure to the sanitary system.
- Speaking at her end-of-year presser on Thursday, Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni confirmed the epidemiological situation is “under control.” Over 90% of Italians over 12 are fully vaccinated.
- Still, the pandemic’s evolution is “unpredictable,” explained the Health Ministry, noting it’s best for the country to prepare.
- In case the situation worsens, the document indicates a series of measures, including indoor face masks, remote working, fewer assemblies, promoting the fourth round of Covid-19 vaccinations and enhancing monitoring.
What to expect. Speaking to our sister website, Guido Rasi (former executive director of the European Medicines Agency) noted the main issue is understanding if any variant escapes immunisation – which is high in the EU and especially in Italy.
- “If cases from China are limited to the strains we already know, we will be able to deal with this spike from abroad with greater peace of mind,” he argued, while warning that “we are still dealing with a particularly infectious virus” and “therefore, there will be situations to manage at the hospital level.”
- Nevertheless, he maintained, Italy is well equipped to deal with a new Covid-related emergency: mRNA vaccines and antivirals, the capacity to study the virus’ evolution in just a few days, more reliable testing and stocks of face masks.