Italy sounded the alarm Monday over the rise in coronavirus cases in fellow European countries after a spike in the number of infections discovered among returning Italian holidaymakers.

"Not to worry (about new cases from abroad) would be unconscionable," Health Minister Roberto Speranza told the Corriere della Sera daily, which noted: "France, Spain and the Balkans... Italy is surrounded by contagions".

Fear over new outbreaks imported by returning vacationers has been fuelled by the much-publicised case of 30 young Italians from the Veneto region who holidayed in Croatia and returned with coronavirus at the start of August.

Italy is closed to Balkan nationals and people arriving from Romania and Bulgaria are obliged to do 14 days quarantine.

La Repubblica newspaper on Sunday also reported that eight young Italians tested positive after returning from a holiday in Malta.

Although it was the first European country to be hit hard by the virus back in February, Italy has since reaped the rewards of a strict nationwide lockdown and social distancing policy. On Sunday it reported just two deaths from the virus.

Case numbers are however rising with 463 new infections reported over a 24-hour period.

But that is a markedly better performance than that of Spain -- which leads the way in the number of new infections recorded over the past two weeks, followed by Romania, France, Germany, Britain and Poland.

"We have to be ready: over the next two weeks, the number of contagions on their return (from abroad) will increase," Rodolfo Punzi, director of the infectious diseases department at Naples' Cotugno hospital, told the Stampa daily.



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