New coronavirus case suspected in Italy

New coronavirus case suspected in Italy
Italians evacuated from eastern China are being kept in quarantine in Rome. Photo: Ansa/AFP
A third patient is in isolation at an Italian hospital after showing possible symptoms of the coronavirus, days after returning to Italy from China.

The person is one of 56 Italians nationals flown home earlier this week from Wuhan, the eastern Chinese city at the heart of the coronavirus outbreak. 

Since landing in Rome on Monday, the evacuees have been kept in precautionary quarantine at a military facility on the southern outskirts of the capital.

Doctors identified what could be symptoms of the respiratory illness in one member of the group and have transferred the individual to a specialized hospital for further tests, the Italian Health Ministry announced on Wednesday.

If confirmed, it would be the third known case of coronavirus in Italy.

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Two Chinese nationals on holiday in Italy were diagnosed with the virus last week and are being treated in isolation at the Spallanzani National Institute for Infectious Diseases in Rome, the same hospital where the third patient has been sent for tests.

The two known victims, a woman and man in their 60s, are said to be in serious but stable condition. They are receiving what the hospital described as “experimental” treatment with antiretroviral drugs typically used against HIV, but which have also shown signs of working against the new coronavirus.

The Italian government says it is also monitoring the situation aboard a cruise ship held in quarantine off Japan after at least 20 people aboard tested positive for the virus. Thirty-five Italians are on the Diamond Princess, ten of them passengers and another 25 crew, though so far none are believed to have the virus.

Meanwhile all passengers arriving at Italian airports, including from Europe or on domestic flights, are being systematically scanned for higher than normal temperatures. 


Scanning arrivals this week at Rome;s Fiumicino airport. Photo: Fiumicino Airport Press Office/AFP

All direct flights between Italy and China remain suspended after the Italian government declared a state of emergency over the coronavirus last week, making Italy the only country in Europe to cut off air travel entirely.

The Chinese government has accused other countries of “overreacting” by restricting flights, with a Foreign Ministry spokesperson pointing out that the World Health Organization does not recommend preventing travel.

The flight ban is expected to hit Italy's tourism industry, which serves around 3.5 million Chinese holidaymakers each year. 

“Fear of the virus risks costing Italian tourism at least 1.6 billion euros and more than 13 million visitors. And those are conservative estimates: if the panic continues, the toll could be even higher,” said Vittorio Messina, head of the Italian tourism federation Assoturismo Confesecenti, at a meeting with the Italian government on Wednesday.


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