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World

Rome suspends flights from Bangladesh after virus cases

  • Health Minister said that a one-week suspension of flights had been ordered.
07 Jul 2020

ROME: Italy's health minister ordered the suspension of flights to Rome from Bangladesh on Tuesday, after a spate of coronavirus cases within the community that authorities worry could expand.

On Monday, 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 the 225 arriving Dhaka passengers 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".

Health Minister Roberto Speranza said in a statement that a one-week suspension of flights had been ordered.

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 imported cases, 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."

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.

Lazio has sought to offer more testing for the community of Bangladeshis which numbers 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 illegally in low-paying jobs.

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