One of the 56 Italians nationals flown home earlier this week from Wuhan, the Chinese city at the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak, has tested positive for the virus, Italy's Higher Health Institute (ISS) confirmed late on Thursday.
Since landing in Rome on Monday, the evacuees have been kept in precautionary quarantine at a military facility on the outskirts of the capital.
The ISS said in a statement that the Italian man is now being treated in isolation at Rome's Spallanzani National Institute for Infectious Diseases.
The patient has a “modest temperature increase and conjunctival hyperaemia”, the ISS said.
Italians evacuated from eastern China are being kept in quarantine in Rome. Photo: Ansa/AFP
This is the third confirmed case of coronavirus in Italy so far.
Two Chinese nationals on holiday in Italy were diagnosed with the virus last week and are also being treated in isolation at the Spallanzani hospital.
The frst two 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.
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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 and on some domestic flights, are being systematically scanned for higher than normal temperatures.
All direct flights between Italy and China were 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.
Italy has on Friday agreed to allow some flights to and from China, after the Chinese government accused other countries of “overreacting” by restricting flights. A Foreign Ministry spokesperson pointing out that the World Health Organization does not recommend preventing travel.