Italy is making coronavirus tests for visitors from China mandatory following an explosion in cases in China, the health minister said Wednesday.

“I have ordered mandatory COVID-19 antigenic swabs, and related virus sequencing, for all passengers coming from China and transiting through Italy,” minister Orazio Schillaci said.

The measure was “essential to ensure the surveillance and identification of any variants of the virus in order to protect the Italian population”, he said.

Coronavirus infections have surged in China as it unwinds hardline controls that had torpedoed the economy and sparked nationwide protests.

The Italian northern region of Lombardy introduced screening from Tuesday, a day before the measure was brought in nationwide.

Lombardy, the first region to impose a lockdown when coronavirus hit Europe in early 2020, is testing arrivals from China at Milan’s Malpensa airport at least until January 30, the foreign ministry said.

Swabs collected at Malpensa in recent days are already being analyzed by the national health ministry, to help identify any new variants.

 

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