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Italy suspends flights from Bangladesh over ‘imported’ coronavirus cases

Italy's health minister ordered the suspension of flights from Bangladesh on Tuesday, after a spate of coronavirus cases among people arriving in Rome from Dhaka.

Italy suspends flights from Bangladesh over 'imported' coronavirus cases
A plane above Rome's Fiumicino airport. Photo: Filippo Monteforte/AFP

Health Minister Roberto Speranza said in a statement that a one-week suspension of flights had been ordered, and said the government would consider mandating extra precautions for people arriving in Italy from outside the EU or Schengen Zone.

“Quarantine is already required for non-EU and non-Schengen arrivals, but after all the sacrifices made we cannot allow infections to be imported from abroad,” Speranza said. “It's better to follow the line of maximum caution.”

The decision comes a day after the Lazio region surrounding Rome issued a special decree calling for passengers from Dhaka to be given virus tests upon their arrival at Rome's Fiumicino airport.

Of 225 passengers arriving from Dhaka on Monday, 21 tested positive for the disease, Lazio's top health official Alessio D'Amato said on Tuesday, calling it a “veritable viral 'bomb' that we've defused”.

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As of Monday, 32 coronavirus cases had been reported within the Bangladeshi community, Lazio president Nicola Zingaretti wrote in the decree. It was unclear whether that number included the positive cases among the passengers who arrived Monday.

Seventeen of the 32 cases were “imported” from abroad and 15 involved people in contact with those patients, the decree said. It added that a two-week quarantine for passengers from Bangladesh had been insufficient to contain transmission of the virus.

There are currently 870 coronavirus cases in Lazio, with 14,709 in Italy overall, according to the latest official figures.

Since the crisis erupted in Italy in late February, 34,869 people have died of coronavirus, but the rate of new infections has slowed considerably, leading the government to roll back most lockdown restrictions. Still, Speranza has warned of a possible second wave in the autumn, and has cautioned Italians to wear masks and avoid crowds, among other measures.

“The objective is to prevent the outbreak that is currently seen in Rome in the Bengali community from multiplying,” Francesco Vaia, health director of Rome's Spallanzani hospital, told news wire AGI.

“It's essential to put under control airports, ports and stations and activate a health surveillance on citizens coming from the non-Schengen area and in particular from countries where the virus is spreading.”


A Rome resident and Bangladeshi national at work in a petrol station. Photo: Andreas Solaro/AFP

Beginning last month, passengers from Dhaka have arrived on special flights intended to bring Bangladeshi nationals residing in Italy back to their European homes and jobs following the coronavirus lockdown.

Italy's borders are only open to those passengers coming from within Europe's Schengen zone, as well as those from another 14 countries — a list that does not include Bangladesh.

Citizens of Bangladesh and other countries not on the 'safe list' are allowed to re-enter Italy if they live here, so long as they self-isolate for 14 days after their arrival.

Lazio has sought to offer more testing for Bangladeshi residents, who number about 30,000 in Italy's capital, but only three people showed up at a special clinic offering free testing on Monday, Il Messagero daily said.

About 45,000 Bangladeshis reside in Italy, according to national statistics agency Istat. Migration from Bangladesh to Italy has grown in recent years and many within the community work in low-paid, undeclared jobs. 

Other cases involving Bangladeshis with links to flights from Dhaka have also been seen in Tuscany, according to news reports. 

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STRIKES

Calendar: The transport strikes to expect in Italy this February

Travellers in Italy will face disruption again this month amid a new round of transport strikes. Here's what you can expect in the coming weeks.

Calendar: The transport strikes to expect in Italy this February

Travel in Italy was disrupted by dozens of localised strikes in January, and this is set to continue into February as Italian unions announced a further round of demonstrations affecting rail and public transport services in many areas, as well as airline travel.

READ ALSO: Should you travel in Italy when there’s a strike on?

Here’s an overview of February’s main strikes, which are again mainly local or regional, but include a national public transport strike on February 17th and a nationwide walkout by airport ground staff on February 28th.

February 5th-6th: Trenitalia staff in the southern Calabria region will strike from 9pm on Sunday, February 5th to 9pm the following day. 

A list of guaranteed services in the region is available here.

February 9th: Staff from Lombardy’s Trenord will take part in a 22-hour strike – from 2am to 11.50pm – on Thursday, February 9th.

It’s currently unclear whether Trenord will operate minimum services on the day. See the company’s website for further information. 

February 12th: Air traffic control staff at Perugia’s San Francesco d’Assisi airport will take part in a 24-hour strike action on Sunday, February 12th. 

It isn’t yet clear how the walkout will affect air travel to and from the airport on the day.

Travellers at an Italian airport

A national strike from ground service staff may cause delays and queues at many Italian airports on Tuesday, February 28th. Photo by Andreas SOLARO / AFP

February 12th-13th: Trenitalia staff in Emilia-Romagna will strike from 3.30am on Sunday, February 12th to 2.30am on Monday, February 13th.

A list of guaranteed rail services in the region is available here.

February 17th: Public transport staff will take part in a national 24-hour strike on Friday, February 17th. 

The strike was called in late January by Italian union USB to protest against precarious work contracts and privatisation attempts by the Italian state.

There currently aren’t any details as to what percentage of workers will take part in the action or how widespread the disruption is likely to be.

February 19th: Trenitalia staff in the Veneto region will strike from 9am to 5pm on Sunday, February 19th. 

Guaranteed services are available here.

On the same day, there will be no service between Milan’s Milano Centrale station and Paris’s Gare de Lyon due to a strike from staff at France’s national railway company SNCF.

READ ALSO: Trains and planes: Italy’s new international travel routes in 2023

Empty train platform in Codogno, Lombardy

Staff from Lombardy’s regional railway operator Trenord will strike for 22 hours on Thursday, February 9th. Photo by Miguel MEDINA / AFP

February 20th: Trenitalia personnel in Lombardy are expected to strike from 9am to 5pm on Monday, February 20th. 

Guaranteed services haven’t been made available yet. 

February 28th: Baggage handlers and other airport ground service staff will take part in a national 24-hour strike on Tuesday, February 28th. 

It isn’t yet clear how the strike will affect air travel during the day, though a similar demonstration caused significant delays and queues at some Italian airports in late January.

ENAV air traffic operators based in Calabria are also expected to strike on February 28th, with the walkout set to start at 1pm and end at 5pm.

You can keep up to date with the latest strike news from Italy HERE.

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