MONDRAGONE, Italy (AP) – The governor of a southern Italian region insisted on Friday that residents of an apartment complex should be quarantined within 15 days, not even to buy food, after dozens of COVID-19 cases among Bulgarian seasonal workers and Italians living there were confirmed.
Campania Governor Vincenzo De Luca wore a mask to discourage the spread of viruses, telling reporters that the National Civil Defense Service should deliver messages to the estimated 700 residents of the apartments in Mondragone, a coastal town about 50 kilometers northwest. from Naples.
The complex needs to be kept “rigorously isolated,” said De Luca. That means that during 15 days “no one leaves and no one enters” the apartments.
Later on Friday, the governor said that of the 743 smears performed on residents living in the complex’s five buildings, 43 COVID-19 cases were discovered, including those of nine homeless Italians who were housed in one of the buildings.
Part of the anger that had sparked the city was the word that some Bulgarians had fled the complex, despite the mandatory quarantine order. But De Luca said that all 19 who had run away had been detected and tested for the coronavirus, and “thank goodness, all tested negative.”
The entire city of 30,000 has been urgently requested to be tested, and many people lined up on Friday to have Pap smears.
“Since we started this morning, we have done over 250 swabs. They have recognized the importance of being careful with this virus, ”said Massimo D’Alessio, a Red Cross volunteer.
The south has been spared the large number of coronavirus cases that have plagued northern Italy.
Noted for his particularly tough line in anti-contamination measures during the nationwide coronavirus outbreak this year, De Luca has vowed to lock up all of Mondragone when the number of hotspot cases reaches 100.
“Have I been clear? I’m used to speaking clearly,” De Luca told RAI state television.
The apartment complex was shut down earlier in the week, and everyone who lives there was instructed to be tested for the virus after a handful of cases initially surfaced.
The Campania region has requested police reinforcements to impose quarantine on the complex. De Luca said the Interior Ministry had approved an army contingent.
The residents of the apartment have a hard time staying indoors during these hot, steamy summer days. Tensions flared up on Thursday, with Italians on the street mocking the Bulgarians living in the complex, although Friday’s tensions were mostly limited to name calling.
“It’s like a war between the two communities,” said Giuseppe Capotosto, a civil protection volunteer, referring to the Italians and Bulgarians living in the complex. “Basically there is no integration, we just want to integrate these people, help them, but they don’t intend to integrate into the community.”
The Bulgarians are currently harvesting string beans and other vegetables on farms near Mondragone.
Italians, migrants from Africa and Asia, as well as seasonal workers from Europe, including Ukrainians, Romanians and Bulgarians, are involved in picking fruit and vegetables from orchards and farms all over Italy.
Igor Prata, an official of the CGIL labor federation, told Sky TG24 in Mondragone that Bulgarians are among the exploited agricultural workers.
“Let’s not forget that they work for years (seasonally), subject to exploitation,” said Plata. They work in the fields nine to eleven hours a day, with men working up to $ 40 ($ 45) a day and women making about $ 5 less, each worker said. Each worker gives about 5 euros in daily wages to gang bosses who help them find work or take them to the field.
Governor De Luca said the first COVID-19 case among the Bulgarians was from a woman who gave birth at a local hospital, with the newborn test being negative.
Finding out the woman’s contacts eventually led to the discovery of the other cases in the complex, De Luca said.
During the pandemic, Campania recorded approximately 4,660 cases of COVID-19 and 431 deaths, a small proportion of the nationwide cases and deaths.
In northern Italy, near Bologna, another outbreak caused concern to health authorities. According to Italian news reports, 64 courier workers, most with one company, have tested positive for COVID-19 in recent days. So far, 370 people have been tested, including the delivery people and their families. Almost all positive cases are without symptoms and only two are hospitalized, Corriere della Sera reported daily.
Frances D’Emilio reported from Rome.
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