Italy imposes travel ban on India, 'double mutant' hits Greece, Switzerland

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Italy has joined several other countries by imposing restrictions on travel from India to avert the spread of a Covid-19 "double mutant", as the Asian nation registered the world's highest new infection rate for a fourth day. Greece and Switzerland became the latest European nations to report the Indian variant had been detected on their soil.

Italy's Health Minister Roberto Speranza said he had signed an order barring foreign travellers who have been in India in the past 14 days from entering the country.

India is battling a "double mutant" strain of Covid-19. On Sunday, it posted the world's highest single-day increase in cases for a fourth day, with 349,691 fresh infections and 2,767 deaths.

Italian residents will be allowed to return from India with a negative test result at their departure and one at their arrival and then have to go into quarantine, the minister said.

Those already in Italy and who travelled from India in the past 14 days were requested to undergo a swab.

Double mutant in Greece, Switzerland

Greece on Sunday reported that a first case of India's double mutant had been detected on its soil.

Health authorities said the variant had been detected in a 33-year-old expatriate woman living in the Athens area. The woman had travelled to Dubai on 4 April and had provided a negative PCR test when leaving Greece.

Switzerland's public health authority confirmed its first case on Saturday. "The first case of the Indian variant of Covid-19 has been discovered in Switzerland," the Swiss Federal Office of Public Health (BAG) said in a tweet.

The variant was found in "a passenger who arrived in Switzerland after transiting through a European airport".

"The person changed flights in a European country before flying on to Switzerland," spokesman Daniel Dauwalder told AFP in an email, adding that the positive sample was collected in March in the northern canton of Solothurn.

The news comes after Belgian authorities on Thursday said a group of 20 Indian nursing students who arrived from Paris had tested positive for the variant in the country.

Last week, Britain banned entry to travellers from India. France has announced that they will be subject to a 10-day quarantine upon arrival in the country.

India's healthcare system is buckling under a new wave of infections blamed in part on the double mutant variant, known as B.1.617.

(with AFP, Reuters)