Italy to airlift citizens out of coronavirus-hit Chinese city

The Italian government announced it will be sending a plane to evacuate citizens from the Chinese city of Wuhan, the epicentre of the SARS-like coronavirus.

Italy to airlift citizens out of coronavirus-hit Chinese city
Health specialists getting ready to carry out a check for coronavirus on passengers at Rome's Fiumicino airport. Photo: ADR/AFP

The foreign ministry said the aircraft, which will be carrying a medical team, would depart on Thursday “once all the necessary authorisations have been obtained from the Chinese authorities”.

READ ALSO: How concerned should you be about the coronavirus in Italy?

It did not say how many Italians would be airlifted out, or whether they would be placed in quarantine, though those transported home would have to follow “a protocol laid out by the health ministry”.

The flight was arranged by the Italian foreign ministry's crisis unit in liaison with the defence ministry, the health ministry, and Rome's Spallanzani Hospital, which specialises in infectious diseases.

Chinese airline staff at Rome's Fiumicino airport. Photo: AFP

Between 60 and 70 Italians are currently in Wuhan according to media, though the Corriere della Sera and Repubblica dailies said that not all of them wanted to be evacuated.

Citizens of several other countries have already been evacuated from Wuhan.

The Italian foreign ministry advises against all travel to Hubei province due to the ongoing coronavirus epidemic, which has killed 132 people and infected around 6,000.

There have been no confirmed cases of the virus in Italy at the time of writing.

There have been a number of suspected cases, including in BariParma, Lucca and Naples but all tests have so far come back negative.

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.


Former Italian PM faces investigation over Covid response

Italian prime minister Giuseppe Conte is set to undergo a judicial inquiry over claims his government's response to the Covid-19 outbreak in early 2020 was too slow.

Former Italian PM faces investigation over Covid response

Prosecutors in Bergamo, the northern city that was one of the epicentres of the coronavirus outbreak in Europe, targeted Conte after wrapping up their three-year inquiry, according to media reports.

Conte, now president of the populist Five Star movement, was prime minister from 2018 to 2021 and oversaw the initial measures taken to halt the spread of what would become a global pandemic.

Investigating magistrates suspect that Conte and his government underestimated the contagiousness of Covid-19 even though available data showed that cases were spreading rapidly in Bergamo and the surrounding region.

They note that in early March 2020 the government did not create a “red zone” in two areas hit hardest by the outbreak, Nembro and Alzano Lombardo, even though security forces were ready to isolate the zone from the rest of the country.

READ ALSO: ‘Not offensive’: Italian minister defends Covid testing rule for China arrivals

Red zones had already been decreed in late February for around a dozen other nearby municipalities including Codogno, the town where the initial Covid case was reportedly found.

Conte’s health minister Roberto Speranza as well as the president of the Lombardy region, Attilio Fontana, are also under investigation, the reports said.

Bergamo prosecutors allege that according to scientific experts, earlier quarantines could have saved thousands of lives.

Conte, quoted by Il Corriere della Sera and other media outlets, said he was “unworried” by the inquiry, saying his government had acted “with the utmost commitment and responsibility during one of the most difficult moments of our republic.”

READ ALSO: Italy’s constitutional court upholds Covid vaccine mandate as fines kick in

Similar cases have been lodged against officials elsewhere, alleging that authorities failed to act quickly enough against a virus that has killed an estimated 6.8 million people worldwide since early 2020.

In January, France’s top court threw out a case against former health minister Agnes Buzyn, a trained doctor, over her allegedly “endangering the lives of others” by initially playing down the severity of Covid-19.