Covid-19: What are Italy’s new isolation and quarantine rules?

Covid-19: What are Italy’s new isolation and quarantine rules?
Here's what you need to know about home isolation and quarantine rules in Italy. File photo: AFP
As Italy's new emergency decree shortens the mandatory isolation period in some cases, here's a closer look at the rules.

Italy's new October emergency decree was signed into law on Monday night, and it includes changes to the rules on isolation.

In it, the mandatory isolation period for anyone who tests positive but is asymptomatic has been cut from 14 days to “at least” ten, following recommendations from government's scientific advisory panel.

READ ALSO: Parties banned and restaurants shut early: What's in Italy's October emergency decree?

Those who have tested positive will be required to show a negative test result before being allowed to leave isolation, the Ministry of Health clarified in a new document detailing current health measures.

Importantly, the Health Ministry clarifies in the document that there is a distinction between isolation and quarantine:

“The isolation of known cases of infection refers to the separation of infected people from the rest of the community for the duration of the period of contagiousness, in conditions that prevent transmission,” it states.
 
“Quarantine on the other hand, refers to the restriction of the movement of healthy people for the duration of the incubation period, who may have been exposed to an infectious agent, with the aim of monitoring any appearance of symptoms and promptly identifying new cases.”
 

Who can leave isolation after ten days?

Asymptomatic cases can leave isolation after ten days with the negative result, while those who show symptoms must stay in isolation for a further three days.

“Asymptomatic people who have tested positive can return to the community after an isolation period of at least 10 days from the onset of positivity, at the end of which a molecular test has been performed with a negative result (10 days + test),” stated the circular issued by the Ministry of Health on Monday.
 
“Symptomatic people who have tested positive can return to the community after an isolation period of at least 10 days from the onset of symptoms accompanied by a molecular test with negative result, performed after at least 3 days without symptoms (10 days, of which at least 3 days without symptoms + test).”

If you are currently in isolation after testing positive, or being in contact with someone who has, you should contact your doctor, your local prefettura, or your region's coronavirus information hotline for details of how the new measures apply to you.

Photo: AFP

What if you don't test negative?

After reports of some holidaymakers being isolated for weeks after repeatedly testing positive for coronavirus, there are understandable concerns about what happens if you do not get a negative result after the isolation period is up.

Amended legislation under the new decree appears to put a stop to patients potentially spending unlimited time in isolation.

READ ALSO: Travelling to Italy? Here's what you need to know about coronavirus tests

“People who, although no longer presenting symptoms, continue to test positive for the molecular test for SARS-CoV-2, in case of absence of symptoms for at least a week, can stop isolation after 21 days from the onset of symptoms,” the Health Ministry stated.

However, regional health authorities may implement their own rules, and stricter measures may be necessary in some cases.

“This criterion can be changed by the health authorities in agreement with clinical experts and microbiologists/virologists, taking into account the immune status of the persons concerned (in immunosuppressed patients the period of contagiousness can be prolonged)” the Health Ministry adds.

Has quarantine been cut to ten days for travellers?

Italy has kept its current travel rules in place with the new emergency decree, and that includes the quarantine requirement for people coming to Italy from most countries outside of Europe (including from the US.)

For these travellers, entering Italy is only possible for essential reasons and all arrivals must be able to undergo quarantine at a private address upon arrival, using private means of transportation to get there from the airport.

Unlike many other European countries, Italy has also kept this quarantine requirement place for travellers from countries on the EU's “safe list” (including Canada).

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This 14-day quarantine period for arrivals appears to be unchanged by the October decree.

Government websites at the time of writing continue to advise that these travellers must “self-isolate for 14 days, informing local health authorities of your presence in Italy, so that they can activate health surveillance procedures.”

Testing procedures often vary by regional health authority in Italy, and regional governments may impose their own restrictions on travellers from certain countries.

If you have any doubts about quarantine procedures or travelling to Italy, please contact the border police in the region you are travelling to or the local prefettura or health authorities.

Travellers to or from foreign countries are also advised to check the relevant country information on the Italian government's ViaggiareSicuri website or contact the relevant embassy.

Please note: The Local is not able to advise on specific cases. Contact your embassy for official guidance.


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