274 migrants rescued by the humanitarian vessel Ocean Viking were given permission to disembark in Sicily on Sunday. Upon arrival, they were put in effective quarantine in response to the growing coronavirus outbreak in Italy.
The Italian interior ministry announced Sunday that all 274 migrants, as well as the Ocean Viking rescue crew, will he held in quarantine for now in order to screen them for possible signs of the coronavirus. The migrants will be transferred to Pozzallo, and the crew will be held isolated on board the docked ship, the news agency AFP reports.
274 migrants, rescued by the Ocean Viking in three operations off the coast of Libya last week, were authorized to disembark in Pozzallo, Sicily on Sunday. The ship operated by SOS Mediterranee and Doctors without borders was assigned a port for disembarkation around four days after the rescue missions.
MSF in a statement on Twitter reacted to the quarantine: "In the context of exceptional public health measures in Italy, MSF and SOS Mediterranee understand the concerns and comply with the prevention precautions." The NGO however also stated that: "The Covid-19 outbreak should not result in unwarranted new public anxiety around those who are rescued at sea." Nor should the outbreak "serve as a pretext to prevent the Ocean Viking from resuming its lifesaving work in the central Mediterranean."
🔴 UPDATE: The #OceanViking has moved to anchor outside the port of #Pozzallo, where the #MSF & @SOSMedIntl rescue ship has been instructed to remain in quarantine for 14 days. Italian authorities say this is a precautionary measure in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. pic.twitter.com/gjhjjfzgVO— SOS MEDITERRANEE (@SOSMedIntl) February 23, 2020
6 confirmed dead in Italy
Italy has seen a sharp increase of confirmed coronavirus cases over the weekend. With over 200 coronavirus cases and a sixth confirmed death reported Monday, it is the worst-hit country outside Asia. Most of the cases were reported in northern Italian regions.
Since Sunday more than 50,000 residents in 11 towns in northern Italy have been put under quarantine and Italy is taking drastic isolation measures. Border closures in the Schengen countries have been ruled out for now, the European Commission said Monday.