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”.


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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TRAVEL: Delays expected as Italian airport workers strike on Friday

Passengers travelling to and from Italian airports were warned to expect delays on Friday, January 27th, due to strikes by baggage handlers and other staff, with Milan's Linate set to be worst affected.

TRAVEL: Delays expected as Italian airport workers strike on Friday

Strike action on by staff from airport ground service companies may result in delays and queues at some Italian airports, with ticket desks, check-in and baggage handling likely to be affected.

At the national level, ground support staff will take part in a strike held by several of Italy’s biggest trade unions during the day, while an additional strike by baggage handlers at Milan’s Linate airport is expected to cause further disruption.

“It won’t be so much a problem of cancelled flights, even if sometimes the airlines seize the opportunity to cancel one that would leave half empty, but of delays,” Renzo Canavesi, CUB union leader for the Lombardy region, told La Stampa.

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

At Linate, ground service company Swissport Italia and handling companies Airport Handling and Air Cargo plan to strike on Friday.

Staff from Swissport Italia will hold a 24-hour strike at Linate, while the other two ground operators will strike for four hours (from 10.30am to 2.30pm for Airport Handling; from 9pm to 1am of the next day for Airport Cargo).

Passengers are advised to arrive early for flights and to check the status of their service before leaving for the airport.

Passengers may be entitled to compensation in the event of severe delays or flight cancellations. See our guide for further details.

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