Coronavirus: Italians evacuated from China quarantined in Rome

More than 50 Italian nationals flown back from China amid the outbreak of the coronavirus will be held at a military base in the south of Rome, as Italy works to contain the spread of the infection.

Coronavirus: Italians evacuated from China quarantined in Rome
Italian nationals were evacuated from China to a military airport near Rome on Monday. Photo: Andreas Solaro/AFP

A plane carrying 56 Italians from the eastern city of Wuhan, where cases of the respiratory illness were first reported, took off on Sunday night and landed at a military airport to the south of Rome at around 10 am on Monday.

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

The evacuees, who include six children, will be checked by doctors and spend two weeks in quarantine at the Cecchignola military base on the southern outskirts of the capital as a precaution.

One Italian who had hoped to board the government's repatriation flight was ordered to remain in Wuhan after showing signs of fever and is under observation in a local hospital, La Repubblica reported. A further ten Italians are believed to have decided against evacuation.

A military aircraft carrying Italian nationals from China lands at the military airport in Practica a Mare. Photo: Andreas Solaro/AFP

Meanwhile China has begun flying Chinese tourists out of Italy after the Italian government suspended all commercial flights between the two countries last week as part of emergency measures ordered when two cases of the coronavirus were confirmed in Rome.

The victims, both Chinese nationals on holiday in Italy, are being treated in isolation at a hospital in Rome, while the hotel room where they stayed has been sealed and disinfected.

Health authorities are also monitoring an Italian minor near Treviso in the northern Veneto region who recently returned from a trip to China and has reported symptoms of respiratory infection, according to Ansa news agency.


A specially commissioned China Airlines plane from Taipei landed at Rome's Fiumincino airport early on Monday morning to collect Chinese visitors stranded in Italy amid the travel restrictions. Italy attracts more Chinese tourists than any other European country, with some 3.5 million people visiting last year.

The outbreak has prompted a spate of discrimination in Italy against people of East Asian origin, including a Rome music school urging its Chinese, Korean and Japanese students to stay at home and a bar in the capital's historic centre 'banning' Chinese customers.

A sign barring entry to “people coming from China”, which appeared outside a bar near the Trevi Fountain, has been removed following complaints.

While Italy has declared a health emergency over the coronavirus, the public is urged not to panic but to take sensible precautions including washing hands frequently and covering nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing.

More than 17,200 cases have been confirmed and over 350 people have died since the start of the coronavirus outbreak in December, but the number of people recovering from the infection is rising. The fatality rate (around 2 percent) remains low compared to the outbreak of the SARS coronavirus in 2002 and 2003 (9.6 percent). 

What is coronavirus?

It's a respiratory illness which belongs to the same family as the common cold.

The outbreak in the Chinese city of Wuhan – which is an international transport hub – began at a fish market in late December and since then more than 100 people have died, including a doctor who was treating the victims.

What are the symptoms?

The initial symptoms are not dissimilar to the common flu, as the virus belongs to the same family. They include a cough, headache, fatigue, fever, aching and difficulty breathing.

It is primarily spread through airborne contact or contact with contaminated objects.

How can I protect myself?

Health authorities recommend washing your hands and using sanitizer gel regularly, using disposable tissues and throwing them away, and covering your mouth with your elbow when you cough.

What should I do if I think I have it?

If you think you have the illness, do not go to hospital or your doctor's surgery. Health authorities are worried about potentially infected people turning up at hospitals and passing on the virus.

The Italian health ministry has set up a dedicated phone line, available by dialling 1500, to provide more information on the virus in Italian, English and Chinese.

In an emergency, you should always call the emergency number 112.

Italian vocabulary

a fever – una febbre

a headache – un mal di testa

a cough – una tosse

a cold – un raffreddore

the flu – l'influenza

the coronavirus – il coronavirus

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Covid-19: Are Italian live events at risk of being postponed?

As the infection rate rises sharply across the country, Italian virologists are calling for concerts and festivals to be rescheduled.

Covid-19: Are Italian live events at risk of being postponed?

Italy has seen a large increase in the number of Covid-19 cases in recent days, so much so that a number of virologists across the country are now urging the government to postpone major live events in a bid to curb infections. 

According to a new report by Italy’s independent health watchdog, the Gimbe Foundation, 595,349 new cases were recorded in the week from June 29th to July 5th; a worrying 55 percent increase on the previous week. 

In the same time span, the country also registered a 32.8 percent rise in the number of hospitalised patients, which went from 6,035 to 8,003.  

The latest Covid wave, which is being driven by the highly contagious Omicron 5 variant, is a “real cause for concern”, especially in terms of a “potential patient overload”, said Nino Cartabellotta, president of the Gimbe Foundation. 

As Italian cities prepare to host a packed calendar of concerts and festivals this summer, health experts are questioning whether such events should actually take place given the high risk of transmission associated with mass gatherings.

READ ALSO: What tourists in Italy need to know if they get Covid-19

“Rescheduling these types of events would be the best thing to do right now,” said Massimo Ciccozzi, Director of Epidemiology at Campus Bio-Medico University of Rome. 

The summer wave is expected to peak in mid-July but, Ciccozzi warns, the upcoming live events might “delay [the peak] until the end of July or even beyond” and extend the infection curve.

Antonello Maruotti, Professor of Statistics at LUMSA University of Rome, recently shared Ciccozzi’s concerns, saying that live events as big as Maneskin’s scheduled Rome concert are “definitely not a good idea”. 

The Italian rock band are slated to perform at the Circus Maximus on Saturday, July 9th but the expected turnout – over 70,000 fans are set to attend the event – has raised objections from an array of Italian doctors, with some warning that the concert might cause as many as 20,000 new cases.

If it were to materialise, the prospected scenario would significantly aggravate Lazio’s present medical predicament as there are currently over 186,000 Covid cases in the region (nearly 800 patients are receiving treatment in local hospitals). 

Italian rock band Maneskin performing in Turin

Italian rock band Maneskin are expected to perform at the Circus Maximus in Rome on Saturday, July 9th. Photo by Marco BERTORELLO / AFP

But, despite pleas to postpone the event, it is likely that Maneskin’s concert will take place as scheduled.

Alessandro Onorato, Rome’s Tourism Councillor, said that rescheduling is “out of question” and that “all recommendations from the local medical authorities will be adopted” with the help of the event’s organisers and staff on the ground.

At the time of writing, there is also no indication that the Italian government will consider postponing other major live events scheduled to take place in the coming weeks, though the situation is evolving rapidly and a U-turn on previous dispositions can’t be ruled out.

READ ALSO: At a glance: What are the Covid-19 rules in Italy now?

On this note, it is worth mentioning that Italy has now scrapped all of its former Covid measures except the requirement to wear FFP2 face masks on public transport (though not on planes) and in healthcare settings.

The use of face coverings is, however, still recommended in all crowded areas, including outdoors – exactly the point that leading Italian doctors are stressing in the hope that live events will not lead to large-scale infection.

Antonio Magi, President of Rome’s OMCEO (College of Doctors, Surgeons and Dentists), said: “Our advice is to wear FFP2 masks […] in high-risk situations.”

“I hope that young people will heed our recommendations and think about the health risks that their parents or grandparents might be exposed to after the event [they attend].”