Italy suspends flights from Bangladesh until October 5
A Bangladesh expatriate passes through the check-point at the Rome's Fiumicino Airport on Wednesday.
News Desk :
The Italian authorities have ordered the suspension of all flights from Bangladesh until October 5 over fake Covid-19 reports of Bangladeshi passengers and a spike in coronavirus cases among the Bangladeshi community in Rome caused by arrivals from their homeland.
Qatar Airways, which transports passengers from Bangladesh to Italy, said in a statement that all flights from Bangladesh to Italy have been banned at the request of the Italian Ministry of Health.
Italy on Wednesday sent back 167 Bangladeshis who went there on two flights and detected with coronavirus.
"From July 8 to October 5, no citizen of any country or any flight from Bangladesh through any country will not be allowed to land in Italy," added the statement issued on Thursday.
The decision came a day after the Lazio region surrounding Rome issued a special decree calling for passengers from Dhaka to be given virus tests upon their arrival at Rome's Fiumicino airport.
Of 225 passengers arriving from Dhaka on Monday, 21 tested positive for the disease, Lazio's top health official Alessio D'Amato said on Tuesday, calling it a "veritable viral 'bomb' that we've defused".
The Lazio Region is currently undertaking "blanket testing" for covid-19 among the local Bangladesh community.
There could be as many as 600 "undetected" Bangladesh citizens infected with covid-19 circulating in Rome and around Italy, the Lazio Region health councillor Alessio D'Amato told Rome daily newspaper Il Messaggero.
''Our experts made calculations, based on the data obtained from the sample of passengers on the special flight arriving from Dhaka on Monday, in which 13 per cent of the passengers tested positive," said D'Amato.
"The result is very worrying: taking into account all the flights including those with a stopover that brought Bangladesh migrants back to Italy, there are 500-600 positive cases that have not been intercepted, going around Rome and other regions," D'Amato told Il Messaggero.
Italian newspaper La Repubblica reports that D'Amato's estimate was backed up by Italy's deputy health minister Pierpaolo Sileri who told Radio 24: "The number of possible positives from Bangladesh is around 600, work is underway to trace these people to allow us to make epidemiological links and test everyone."
D'Amato says the region is "ready" to test all incoming passengers from countries with high rates of coronavirus but stressed that the decision must come from central government, also taking into account the repercussions on air traffic.
Citing as an example the 6 July flight from Bangladesh, in which 276 passengers were tested, D'Amato said: "For that flight alone, we employed 40 doctors and nurses for five hours, which means that air traffic also slows down significantly. The responsibility cannot be ours alone, every day thousands of non-EU passengers are arriving.''
Il Messaggero also reports that in the Bangladesh capital Dhaka it is possible to purchase bogus health certificates for as little as â‚¬36, allowing citizens to leave the country despite being potentially infected.
This was confirmed to Il Messaggero by Mohammed Taifur Rahman Shah, president of the Ital-Bangla association which has been helping newly-arrived Bangladesh citizens in Italy for many years.
Italian news agency Adnkronos reports that after a slow start on Monday, 300 Bangladesh citizens presented themselves for the voluntary tests yesterday, with "a hundred people" already in the queue outside the regional health offices this morning.
The Lazio region hosts around 37,000 of the 140,000 Bangladeshis in Italy, according to national statistics institute ISTAT. Around 32,000 of them live in Rome, according to Reuters news agency.