Italy's Alitalia digitalizes, updates anti-virus strategy for Rome-New York flights

ROME, Jan. 5 (Xinhua) -- Italy's flagship airline and the Rome-based airport operator on Tuesday unveiled a set of new coronavirus protocols which it says will allow for faster and safer travel on some intercontinental flights.

Alitalia -- the national airline that will be rebranded and relaunched this year as ITA -- and Aeroporti di Roma, the entity that operates the two main airports in the Italian capital, announced the pilot project for Rome-to-New York flights, which entered into force immediately.

Officials said the program could be expanded in the coming weeks.

According to a joint statement from Alitalia and Aeroporti di Roma, the initiative requires passengers traveling with Alitalia between Rome and New York to take a coronavirus test at the airport in order to receive a digital "certificate of negativity" that will be recorded through the AOKpass smartphone app. The digital certificate can be used at customs stations.

The app was developed with the help of the International Chamber of Commerce and the Italian Ministry of Health.

The new strategy builds on what Alitalia called "quarantine-free" flights between Rome and Milan starting last September and similar protocols applied to flights between Rome or Milan and New York starting last month. The new initiative is faster and easier to track, Alitalia said, because of the digital component. It also uses the most updated testing methods to achieve quicker and more accurate test results.

Singapore became the first country to accept digital coronavirus certificates on Dec. 23, according to the International Chamber of Commerce.

No single coronavirus test can assure any group of people is free of the virus. But health experts have told Xinhua that such tests can lower the likelihood that an infected individual might inadvertently be allowed to board a flight.

As the world is struggling to contain the pandemic, vaccination is underway in Italy and some other countries with the already-authorized coronavirus vaccines.

Meanwhile, 232 candidate vaccines are still being developed worldwide -- 60 of them in clinical trials -- in countries including Germany, China, Russia, Britain and the United States, according to information released by the World Health Organization on Dec. 29.

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