Italy regions clamp down to stem new virus clusters

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Italian regions have begun to order new periods of quarantines for people returning from higher-risk European countries such as Spain and Greece in a bid to stem the latest outbreaks of coronavirus.

Health authorities worry that Italians returning from vacations abroad may be bringing home the virus and passing it on during the summer when people are crowding outdoors, on beaches, at festivals or parties.

As the national government studies whether to reissue more stringent anti-COVID restrictions, such as making the wearing of masks mandatory in public, regions are already clamping down.

The president of Emilia Romagna on Wednesday was expected to sign an order mandating tests for anyone returning to the from Spain, Greece and Malta, all Schengen area countries where travel with Italy is unrestricted.

Those returning from Croatia will also be ordered to quarantine.

A mandatory 14-day quarantine also begins today in the southern regions of Puglia and Campania for people returning from Spain, Greece and Malta.

Sicily is prepared to follow suit, its regional president said.

"In the last two days we've logged numerous cases of Puglia residents who have tested positive after coming back from Greece, Malta, Spain, countries with a high viral circulation," said Puglia's regional president Michele Emiliano.

Over 251,000 people have been infected by coronavirus and over 35,000 have died in Italy, the first European country to be hit by the pandemic. Over 13,000 people are currently infected.

Experts have been concerned at reports of young Italians returning from abroad and creating micro-clusters of infection, such as the group of 30 teenagers in the region of Veneto, some of whom tested positive after a trip to Croatia.

Veneto on Wednesday said it had 29 new cases, with 500 more people ordered to self-isolate.

From Monday to Tuesday, Emilia Romagna, Puglia and Campania reported 19, 20 and 23 new cases, respectively.

© 2020 AFP

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