July 7, 2020 / 5:59 PM / a month ago

People refusing coronavirus treatment may face jail in Italy's Veneto

MILAN (Reuters) - People who test positive for the coronavirus but refuse hospital treatment could face a prison sentence under a new regulation introduced in Italy’s northeastern region of Veneto.

Life after lockdown: Empty seats with social distancing markers are seen at a ferry port, which would usually be packed with tourists this time of year, as the Toniolo family travel to the island of Sardinia to see their family after leaving the region of Lombardy for the first time since their hometown became a red zone in February, in this picture taken by schoolteacher Marzio Toniolo in Livorno, Italy, June 3, 2020. Toniolo has been documenting his family's story since lockdown began for them weeks before the rest of the country. On June 3, Italy allowed free movement across the country, so the family took the first seven-hour ferry to Olbia, Sardinia in the early hours of the morning. Picture taken June 3, 2020. REUTERS/Marzio Toniolo

The order by Governor Luca Zaia says that until the end of July hospitals must tell the public prosecutor’s office of anyone refusing admission after testing positive.

Anyone returning to Veneto, which includes the city of Venice, must also be given two compulsory swab tests, Monday’s regional order says if they are returning from a business trip outside the European Union or a non-Schengen country.

Under Italian law, anyone who negligently spreads an epidemic risks a prison sentence up to 12 years, while anyone who does so wilfully may face up to life imprisonment.

“It is a way to partially compensate the national law that does not require isolation upon return from a non-EU country if the stay abroad lasts up to five days”, Zaia said during a news briefing which was streamed via Facebook.

Zaia’s order says that the person’s employer faces a penalty of 1,000 euros multiplied by the number of its employees, if it does not enforce the rule.

The last available data on coronavirus cases released on July 6 for Veneto shows the region had a total of 169 people hospitalised, but it said it was concerned by 28 new infections, of which 15 were related to travel abroad.

The spike in cases has attracted widespread interest in Italy, which is one of the world’s worst hit countries with a total of 34,869 dead and 241,819 infected with the coronavirus.

    Minister of Health Roberto Speranza said on Sunday that Italy is considering compulsory health treatment in cases where a person has to be treated and does not.

    The Ministry of Health did not respond to a request for comment on Veneto’s move.

Reporting by Josephine Mason; Editing by Alexander Smith

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