Authorities are preparing for all eventualities in Italy, where three cases of the new coronavirus have been detected so far.
Since declaring a state of emergency over the outbreak, the country has suspended direct flights to and from China and ordered health checks on all passengers arriving at Italian airports.
“In Italy we monitored 511,000 people in three days and found just eight people with a fever, so we are reassured,” the head of Italy's Civil Protection service, Angelo Borrelli, told the Corriere della Sera. “But in the rest of the world cases are rising and we have to be prepared.”
While checks at other transit hubs such as train stations are not considered necessary at the moment, “we imagine that it could happen and therefore we're ready, and if it were necessary we would act in a matter of hours”, Borrelli said.
Precautionary health checks, which involving taking people's temperature with thermal scanners or thermometers to monitor for signs of fever, will be extended to air passengers transiting through Italian airports, he confirmed.
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Italy is the only country in Europe to have suspended direct flights to and from China entirely, a precaution that Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio said would remain in place until the number of new infections slows.
The government has dispatched a military plane to China to evacuate a 17-year-old Italian national who was barred from another repatriation flight after showing signs of fever, Di Maio said on Monday. The teenager, who tried to return from the city of Wuhan with some 50 other Italians last week, has tested negative for the coronavirus.
The other evacuees are being held in precautionary quarantine at a military facility in the south of Rome, where they are due to remain for another six days.
Italians evacuated from eastern China are being kept in quarantine in Rome. Photo: Ansa/AFP
To date one member of the group has tested positive for the virus, while three others who showed possible symptoms, including two children, tested negative.
All three confirmed coronavirus patients – the Italian national who returned from Wuhan plus two Chinese nationals on holiday in Italy – are receiving treatment in isolation at a specialized hospital in Rome.
Of 53 people tested for the coronavirus, 40 tested negative while ten are still waiting for results, the hospital said on Monday. The remaining three are the only known cases in Italy so far.