ROME (AP) — More than 100 Bangladeshis who arrived at Rome’s airport Wednesday were refused entry as Italy tightens restrictions on travel from coronavirus hotspots in a bid to prevent new infection clusters in the onetime European epicenter of the outbreak.
The 112 Bangladeshis were among 205 passengers who landed Wednesday aboard a Qatar Airways flight that originated in Pakistan and stopped in Doha, Qatar. A spokesman for Rome’s Leonardo da Vinci airport said the 112 were not allowed to disembark and were sent back. The other passengers were being tested and quarantined.
Italy on Tuesday had suspended flights from Bangladesh after at least 37 Bangladeshi passengers aboard a charter flight that landed Monday tested positive for the virus upon arrival in Rome. Italy went on alert about possible infections in the Bangladeshi immigrant community after a cluster of about a dozen cases was traced to a recently returned worker in Rome.
Bangladesh has officially registered more than 172,000 COVID-19 cases and nearly 2,200 deaths, according to the tally by the Johns Hopkins University. By mid-June, Bangladesh’s main state-run hospitals were overwhelmed, with many critical COVID-19 patients being deprived of intensive care beds and ventilators.
Health Minister Roberto Speranza on Wednesday urged the European Union to beef up measures to prevent infected people from arriving in the EU, and has said Italy will not squander the sacrifices it made to contain the virus after it exploded in the north in February.
In a letter to the European health commissioner, Speranza proposed “new rigorous precautionary measures” for non-EU arrivals that would “more efficiently guarantee the objective of containing the diffusion of contagion caused by foreign clusters.”
As it is, Italy refused to green-light passengers from 14 non-EU countries deemed safe by the European Union earlier this month, insisting still on protective quarantine.
Italy on Wednesday added another 193 positive cases to its official COVID-19 toll, with some 49 cases in the northern region of Emilio-Romagna. Italian news agency ANSA said health authorities had identified a cluster of at least 42 cases at a Parma-area company.
Another 15 people with the virus died in the past day, 12 of them in hard-hit Lombardy, bringing Italy’s official death toll to 34,914.