Reader question: What happens if I test positive for Covid-19 while visiting Italy?

Reader question: What happens if I test positive for Covid-19 while visiting Italy?
Photo by PIERRE TEYSSOT / AFP
As many people prepare for long-awaited trips to Italy this summer, readers have contacted The Local to ask what happens if you test positive for Covid-19 during your stay. Here's what you need to know about the current travel rules.

Question: I’m planning a break in Italy and know the entry requirements before travel. But what do I do if I get Covid-19 while in Italy and test positive before I come home?

Travelling to Italy entails a different set of rules depending on where you’re coming from; see the rules on travel to Italy from any country here.

But after meeting the rules applied to your country of origin and making it into Italian territory, what happens if you catch the virus while in Italy?

Here’s a closer look at the rules in place.

What should I do if I have Covid-19 symptoms?

If you think you have symptoms of coronavirus while in Italy you should contact the local area’s health authority, or ASL (Azienda Sanitaria Locale) – the regional numbers are listed here on the Italian Ministry of Health website.

If you suspect you may have Covid-19, you need to minimise your contact with anyone else. The authorities will help you arrange an emergency test. Do not go to a medical centre or pharmacy in the meantime.

 Photo: PIERRE TEYSSOT/AFP

If you’re not sure which number you should call, the national Covid-19 helpline 1500 is available 24 hours a day and will direct you to the relevant authority.

Some readers have told us that they cannot access the 800 numbers and the 1500 freephone from a non-Italian phone number, however. In this case, you’ll need to scroll down to the bottom of the page to find the number to call from abroad (‘dall’estero’), which should work using an international number in Italy.

It’s worth noting that if, for any reason whatsoever, you spend 48 hours or two consecutive nights in hospital, you may also be required to take a coronavirus test in some regions, according to the UK government guidelines.

What if I test positive for the virus?

“If you test positive (in Italy), you will be required to quarantine, which may last from 10 days to three weeks,” the UK government’s travel advice page warns.

The guidance from the Italian Ministry of Health says there is a 10-day minimum quarantine requirement if you should test positive for a variant of concern (VOC).

According to the EU’s European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control guidelines, the VOCs are the Alpha, Beta, Gamma and Delta variants.

The Italian government’s latest circular contains criteria for isolation periods. Particularly related to the 202012/01 variant, commonly known as the Alpha variant, the advice stated, “Asymptomatic persons who test positive for SARS-CoV-2 may re-enter the community after a period of isolation of at least 10 days from the onset of the positive finding.”

On the other hand, if you’re symptomatic, you’ll need to be without symptoms for at least the last three days, “after which an antigenic or molecular test is performed,” according to Italy’s Ministry of Health.

READ ALSO: Italy confirms it will recognise Covid certificates from five non-EU countries

Photo by Ludovic Marin / AFP

This is also the procedure if you test positive for a variant of concern other than the Alpha variant. The only difference being a molecular test would be required – an antigen test is not listed as an accepted way to end isolation in this case.

If you continue to test positive, your quarantine period could be extended to 21 days.

Every Italian regional authority is free to set its own coronavirus containment rules above and beyond those required by the national government, and some areas appear to have very strict protocols in place.

According to media reports, groups of French tourists in Sicily have been confined to Covid hotels for 21 days after testing positive on the island.

Where would I quarantine if I test positive?

You’ll need to self-isolate in accommodation such as a holiday rental, a second home, a friend’s house (provided you avoid contact with them). A hotel may also be an option, if they agree to host you while observing the quarantine period.

If you are unable to find suitable accommodation, local authorities may require that you stay at a facility of their choosing for the required isolation period – a so-called ‘Covid hotel’. This would be at your own expense.

While travellers are advised to make sure that their travel insurance policy would cover them for such eventualities, these policies may in fact be invalidated if your home country has advised against travel to Italy at the moment.

In the UK, insurer ABTA for example states that its policies do not cover “travel to destinations where the FCDO advises against all but essential travel – this is easy to check.”

Insurance policies may be similarly affected in the US, which is currently advising unvaccinated people against travel, while Canada’s advice is to avoid non-essential travel outside Canada until further notice.

In some cases you may be eligible for state financial assistance, but you would need to check with your home country’s government what you could claim.

How do I get tested in Italy to return home?

If your country’s rules state that you need to get a negative test result for return travel, there are plenty of options for this in Italy including going to a pharmacy, a lab or a testing centre.

You’ll need to check what the requirements are to return to your home country to ensure you get the right type of test within the permitted timeframe, which could be between 48 and 72 hours before departure.

Here’s a full guide to the type of tests available, the costs, and where you can get them in Italy.

Please check our homepage or travel news section for the most recent reports on any changes to the Italian travel rules.

For more information about the current coronavirus-related restrictions on travel to Italy please see the Foreign Ministry’s website (in English).


Member comments

  1. What is not addresses is that many flights from New York and California to Italy transit through Heathrow. Are those fully vaccinated people on flights that transit through the UK exempt from the quarantine required by passengers who start their journey in the UK

    1. No – they are not -transiting UK/LHR triggers the 5 day quarantine. So US (and other) travelers should avoid transiting UK if their destination is Italy.

  2. If I test positive in Italy, and want to avoid a “Covid hotel,” I would need to find lodging immediately, that very day. A place that will accept Covid-positive guests. Is this a realistic possibility? A friend’s house perhaps, otherwise it seems very unlikely.

  3. One question that would be useful to address are these conditions:

    1) one is in Italy (EU) on a tourist visa allowing 90 days of stay within a 180 day period
    2) one tests positive for covid-19 requiring a quarantine
    3) complying with the quarantine causes on to overstay their visa

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