MILAN: Italy's health minister signed an ordinance Tuesday requiring any unvaccinated visitor from another EU country to quarantine for five days after arriving in a bid to block spread of the omicron variant.
Under the new requirement taking effect Wednesday, vaccinated visitors from EU countries must get a negative test within 24 hours of arrival to circulate freely in Italy.
Non-EU citizens who are not vaccinated must quarantine for 10 days.
Italian media reported that European Union authorities in Brussels have objected to the measures, which appear to circumvent the EU digital health certificate that confirms a person's vaccination status.
Portugal adopted a similar measure on Dec.1, requiring a mandatory negative test for all flights arriving in Portugal, even for people with health passes and regardless of their point of origin or nationality.
Italy on Tuesday recorded over 20,000 new infections and 120 COVID deaths, the highest single-day death tally in the new surge.
In other measures, Italy is expanding the vaccine mandate, beginning Wednesday, to school personnel, law enforcement, the military and anyone working in a health care setting.
It previously applied only to health care workers and anyone working in a nursing home.
The region of Veneto is expected to adopt additional restrictions next week, including outdoor mask requirements, as hospitals begin to restrict nonessential procedures.
Two regions and one autonomous province are already yellow zones.
Italy has only officially confirmed fewer than a dozen omicron cases, all stemming from business travelers returning from southern Africa.
Some 77% of the Italian population is vaccinated with two shots, with the campaign expanding from Wednesday to children ages 5-11.
Booster shots are available to anyone 18 and over five months after the second shot.
The Dutch government on Tuesday ordered elementary schools to close a week early for Christmas holidays as authorities battle to rein in coronavirus infections amid concerns about the swift spread of the new omicron variant.
Caretaker Prime Minister Mark Rutte also extended the country's existing lockdown until Jan 14, saying the government has to be alert for the new variant.
"That is of course not the good news you hope for at Christmas time," Rutte said in a nationally televised news conference.
"So yes, a disappointing but perhaps not very big surprise."
Rutte said school holidays will be extended from two weeks to three, starting Dec 20.
Young children registered the steepest rises in infections in a recent coronavirus surge in the Netherlands.
That surge has ebbed slightly since lockdown measures were introduced last month.
Bars, restaurants and other public meeting places such as theatres and cinemas have been shutting their doors at 5 pm since Nov 28 and will now have to continue through the holiday season.
Rutte said that continuing high pressure on the health care system combined with the looming threat of the omicron variant made measures unavoidable.
"We still don't know much about it, but this new variant is spreading considerably faster than the current delta variant," he said.
Earlier Tuesday, the country's public health institute in its weekly coronavirus update said that positive tests declined by 21% over the past week to 116,477.
Hospital admissions were down 10% and intensive care units edged lower by 4%.
However, the institute warned that the omicron variant is expected to cause more infections and could in turn lead to an increase in hospital admissions.
Health Minister Hugo de Jonge said the country's booster campaign will be accelerated so that every adult who wants a booster shot will be able to get one by the second half of January.