Boatload of Migrants Heading for Italy Tests Positive for COVID-19
Twenty-eight migrants stopped crossing Mediterranean Sea to enter Europe illegally
A boatload of migrants heading for Italy has tested positive COVID-19 after they were caught attempting to enter Europe illegally, according to reports.
Twenty-eight migrants, who were intercepted as they attempted to cross the Mediterranean Sea, we all found to be infected with the coronavirus, Sicily's governor revealed on Wednesday.
The new cases represent the largest cluster of positive tests yet among newly arrived migrants.
In May, Greece also recorded a handful of positive cases among illegal migrants.
The migrants are currently being held on a ship off the Sicilian town of Porto Empedocle where asylum seekers are placed in quarantine after being stopped at sea.
German open-borders NGO (non-governmental organization) SeaWatch had flagged an asymptomatic migrant it was transporting earlier in the week who turned out positive.
SeaWatch says it was then ordered to undergo at-sea quarantine and issue more tests among other migrants, according to The Daily Mail.
It said tests among the crew were negative and insisted it had followed all relevant health protocols designed to prevent transmission.
But SeaWatch acknowledged it was operating in the context of a pandemic and that cases of coronavirus were increasing in Libyan migrant camps.
Sicily governor Nello Musumeci said in a Facebook post on Wednesday that the 28 positive tests confirmed that he was right to demand special at-sea quarantine measures for migrants to prevent new virus clusters from forming in Italy, the one-time European epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Right-wing opposition leader Matteo Salvini, who implemented a hard-line anti-migrant policy when he was Italy's interior minister, said the positive tests proved migrants were a threat.
In a series of tweets, Salvini pushed back at critics who accused him of being racist and faulted Premier Giuseppe Conte's government for seeking to soften Italy's migrant policy.
"While Conte takes apart the security decree and opens the ports, the NGOs bring COVID-19 migrants to Italy. Public health is at risk," he tweeted, adding #stopinvasion.
As Neon Nettle reported recently, Salvini said that George Soros is funding a group that is helping illegal migrants from North Africa enter Europe after crossing the Mediterranean Sea.
Salvini, the leader of Italy's conservative Lega party, says the Soros-funded organization's lawyers are providing assistance to migrants before they even leave Africa.
The positive tests come as a parliamentary commission is visiting Porto Empedocle to check on migrant and health care issues.
Summertime has traditionally been peak season for migrant smugglers operating in lawless Libya.
Italian officials have predicted new waves of migrants might set out this year with the easing of Italy's coronavirus health emergency and the resumption of humanitarian rescue ships in the Mediterranean.