Returning vacationers drive Italy’s surge in COVID cases

ROME (AP) — With thousands of travellers being tested at Italy’s airports and some ports, the nation where Europe’s COVID-19 outbreak began registered a seventh straight day of increasing new infections on Sunday, mostly driven by returning vacationers.

Sicily’s governor, meanwhile, ordered all migrant residences on the Italian island to shut down yesterday, part of a push-back by Italian regions alarmed by a steady climb in COVID-19 cases a few weeks before schools are to reopen.

But people coming in from Mediterranean Sea resorts abroad as well as from the Italian island of Sardinia have accounted for far more of Italy’s new coronavirus infections lately than have migrants.

Italy registered 1,210 new cases on Sunday, the highest daily number since May 12 and only weeks after it saw new infections plunge to about 200 a day.

The Lazio region, which includes Rome, and the hard-hit Lombardy led the nation in regional new caseloads on Sunday. Thousands of returning travellers got tested at Rome-area airports and a port north of the capital, as well as at airports that serve Lombardy’s main city, Milan.

Other cities, like Turin, also have set up airport test facilities.

People arriving from Spain, Malta, Greece and Croatia must be tested within 48 hours of entering Italy, after those nations saw worrisome upticks in infections.

And many recent coronavirus clusters have been traced to people who vacationed on Sardinia. With many people taking ferries from Sardinia to the Italian mainland, Lazio set up a testing facility at the dock at Civitavecchia, so those driving vehicles off the ferries could line up for immediate testing.

Lazio Governor Nicola Zingaretti appealed to the governor of Sardinia to test vacationers before they sailed or flew to the mainland, saying his region would do the same for travellers leaving for Sardinia, but there was no indication Sardinia would oblige.

Sardinia, which had been counting barely a handful of new daily cases in recent months, registered 81 new infections, compared to 44 a day earlier.

In Sicily, Governor Nello Musumeci’s order took effect on Sunday, requiring that all migrants who reach the island by sea be transferred off to combat the spread of COVID-19 and all centres housing migrants awaiting asylum applications must be shut down. His order, effective through September 10, also forbids any boat, including charity vessels, from bringing migrants to the island.