The departure on buses of COVID-19 positive migrants to the Celio military hospital in Rome from Amantea, Southern Italy, 14 July 2020 | Photo: ANSA/Elvira Madrigrano
The departure on buses of COVID-19 positive migrants to the Celio military hospital in Rome from Amantea, Southern Italy, 14 July 2020 | Photo: ANSA/Elvira Madrigrano

Thirteen migrants who tested positive for COVID-19 in Italy and were taken amidst protests by local residents to the town of Amantea, in Calabria, have been transferred to the Celio military hospital in Rome. Meanwhile, the Italian government is still looking for a new quarantine ship to use for migrants who disembark in Italy.

Thirteen migrants who have tested positive for COVID-19 have been taken to the Celio military hospital in Rome, while the search for a new quarantine ship in Italy continues. 

The 13 migrants had disembarked in Roccella (Reggio Calabria) and were taken to Amantea (Cosenza) in the same region. Following protests by local residents, they were transferred on Tuesday afternoon to the hospital in Rome. 

This was the first response to requests from the governors of Calabria and Sicily, where, however, the cases are mounting on a daily basis: another 11 immigrants have tested positive in Pozzallo. 

The Italian government, in the meantime, wants to stem the summer tide of migrant arrivals on its shores, and push Libya to stop departures. 

Search for a new quarantine ship 

The Italian interior ministry is trying to cope with the problem of finding quarantine ships to hold migrants who continue to arrive. There have been 9,372 arrivals so far this year, three times the number in 2019. 

At the height of summer, it isn't easy to find suitable vessels, the interior ministry said. The ships have to be approved, with all of their certifications in order, with at least 250 places and with appropriate healthcare equipment. 

The company providing the current quarantine ship being used by the Italian government, the Moby Zazà, has decided not to renew its month-to-month contract with the interior ministry, after the second month. The cost is about a million euros for 30 days. 

When the last migrant aboard finishes quarantine, in a few days, the ferry boat will be handed back over to the company. 

The Italian government's initial call for interest to find a ship to rent for quarantining migrants who had been rescued at sea was unsuccessful. 

The interior ministry said that it has subsequently released a new call for interest that expires at midnight on July 16, and said it is confident that a company will respond. 

However, if that ends up not happening, Italian Interior Minister Luciana Lamorgese and Italian Defence Minister Lorenzo Guerini established that migrants who test positive for COVID-19 and can't be housed in safe structures without burdening the local communities, will be transferred to Celio military hospital. 

The interior ministry said that Sicily and Calabria, the regions on the front lines, will receive "maximum attention for protecting the health of their citizens." 

Pressure on Libya and Tunisia 

Meanwhile, the Italian government is aiming to prevent departures by putting pressure on Libya and Tunisia. The coronavirus has further heightened tensions on the issue, with infections growing in North Africa. The situation is particularly difficult to manage in Libya, where clashes between militias are ongoing. 

A meeting on Libya took place on July 14 at Premier Giuseppe Conte's residence, Palazzo Chigi, with Lamorgese, Guerini, Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio, and the director of AISE, Italy's foreign intelligence service, Giovanni Caravelli. 

Conte and Di Maio met in Rome with the speaker of the Tobruk parliament in Libya, Aguila Saleh. 

On July 16, Lamorgese will be in Tripoli to meet with her Libyan counterpart Fathi Al Bishaaga. In the coming days, she will also visit Tunis. 

Meanwhile, requests are coming from Libya asking Italy for aid and the decree on international missions is increasing funds to the country. 

Italian soldiers will work to demine some districts in the capital city of Tripoli and will continue to train the local coast guard. PHOTO: 

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