Italy’s ports closed to migrant boats for duration of coronavirus emergency

Rome, Apr 22 (efe-epa).- Italy will keep its ports off-limits to NGO boats carrying out rescue operations in the Mediterranean for the duration of the coronavirus emergency in the country, the interior minister said Wednesday.

Luciana Lamorgese spoke to international press via videolink and made reference to the 34 migrants recently rescued by the Spanish NGO boat Aita Mar and the 140 saved by the Alan Kurdi, operated by German charity Sea Eye, who have been transferred to a ferry for quarantine.

She said the migrants would remain on the boat, anchored off Palermo, until tests ruled out any coronavirus cases and that the Italian government would then begin the process of requesting they be taken in by countries across Europe.

Such a move would be in accordance with the pact signed by Italy, Malta, France and Germany last September in a bid to alleviate the pressure the European Union’s southerly members, namely Italy and Malta, were coming under with regards to migrant arrivals.

Italy’s decision to close its ports on 8 April was necessary due to the Covid-19 outbreak in the country, the minister said.

“We had no choice,” she said.

Transferring the migrants rescued by the two NGO boats to quarantine on ferries was the next best humanitarian option, she added.

“The duration of the port closures depends on the health emergency in the country,” she added.

Italy has been one of the world’s worst-hit nations in the coronavirus pandemic so far and the death toll in the Mediterranean nation on Wednesday crept up to 25,085, the highest after the United States.

The Civil Protection Agency said in its daily briefing that another 437 people had died in the last 24 hours.

With the rate of infection seemingly tamed in Italy, the minister said she was in favor allowing children out for walks.

Currently they are only allowed to accompany parents on essential errands after a proposal to let them out for walks was scrapped by Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte.

The Italian government is currently studying a tentative reopening of the country from 4 May once the curve of Covid-19 transmissions is fully under control

The interior minister said the country would look to open its borders to tourists from the Schengen Area as soon as possible, but fell short of providing a date. EFE-EPA


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