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Italy says it hasn’t found any new strains in COVID-positive visitors from China: ‘This is quite reassuring’

December 29, 2022, 1:05 PM UTC
Updated December 29, 2022, 2:14 PM UTC
Italian prime minister Georgia Meloni speaks during an end-of-year press conference
Italian officials earlier shared that half of the passengers on two recent flights from China tested positive for the coronavirus.
Alessandra Benedetti—Corbis/Getty Images

Italy didn’t find any new concerning COVID-19 mutations among recent arrivals from China who tested positive for the virus, a relief for officials worried about fresh health threats.

Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni said Italy already sequenced half of the samples tested in Milan and they all show the omicron strain of the coronavirus.

“This is quite reassuring,” she said at a press conference Thursday. “The situation in Italy is under control, and there are no immediate concerns.”

China has scrapped its strict lockdown measures in recent weeks, leading to a surge in infections in the country. While the exact numbers are unclear, the rapid spread has led to concerns around the world about new strains emerging. 

The U.S. and Italy on Wednesday joined an increasing number of nations demanding COVID tests for travelers from China, after Japan and Taiwan unveiled similar measures.

In the UK, Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said Thursday that the government is reviewing whether some countries with higher levels of COVID outbreaks should “face different restrictions.” 

He said clarification on this should come in the next two days.

Italy sequenced the viral samples of passengers on two recent flights from China. About half of those on the planes had tested positive, though most weren’t showing symptoms.

It’s also asked other European countries to adopt testing measures, though for now, governments have just said they’re monitoring the situation.

In Germany, the health ministry said it’s seen no evidence of a variant of concern emerging in China compared to what’s already circulating in Germany.

European Union health officials met Thursday to review the China outbreaks. 

In a post on Twitter, the EU Health Security Committee said that “coordination of national responses to serious cross border threats to health is crucial.”

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