A plane carrying 56 Italians from the eastern city of Wuhan, where cases of the respiratory illness were first reported, took off on Sunday night and landed at a military airport to the south of Rome at around 10 am on Monday.
The evacuees, who include six children, will be checked by doctors and spend two weeks in quarantine at the Cecchignola military base on the southern outskirts of the capital as a precaution.
One Italian who had hoped to board the government's repatriation flight was ordered to remain in Wuhan after showing signs of fever and is under observation in a local hospital, La Repubblica reported. A further ten Italians are believed to have decided against evacuation.
A military aircraft carrying Italian nationals from China lands at the military airport in Practica a Mare. Photo: Andreas Solaro/AFP
Meanwhile China has begun flying Chinese tourists out of Italy after the Italian government suspended all commercial flights between the two countries last week as part of emergency measures ordered when two cases of the coronavirus were confirmed in Rome.
The victims, both Chinese nationals on holiday in Italy, are being treated in isolation at a hospital in Rome, while the hotel room where they stayed has been sealed and disinfected.
Health authorities are also monitoring an Italian minor near Treviso in the northern Veneto region who recently returned from a trip to China and has reported symptoms of respiratory infection, according to Ansa news agency.
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A specially commissioned China Airlines plane from Taipei landed at Rome's Fiumincino airport early on Monday morning to collect Chinese visitors stranded in Italy amid the travel restrictions. Italy attracts more Chinese tourists than any other European country, with some 3.5 million people visiting last year.
The outbreak has prompted a spate of discrimination in Italy against people of East Asian origin, including a Rome music school urging its Chinese, Korean and Japanese students to stay at home and a bar in the capital's historic centre 'banning' Chinese customers.
Assolutamente ingiustificato il cartello comparso in un bar vicino Fontana di Trevi che vieta l’ingresso alle persone provenienti dalla Cina. Stop psicosi e allarmismi. Ascoltiamo solo indicazioni e pareri delle autorità sanitarie. #coronavirus pic.twitter.com/pyqH9fDMum
— Virginia Raggi (@virginiaraggi) January 31, 2020
A sign barring entry to “people coming from China”, which appeared outside a bar near the Trevi Fountain, has been removed following complaints.
While Italy has declared a health emergency over the coronavirus, the public is urged not to panic but to take sensible precautions including washing hands frequently and covering nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing.
More than 17,200 cases have been confirmed and over 350 people have died since the start of the coronavirus outbreak in December, but the number of people recovering from the infection is rising. The fatality rate (around 2 percent) remains low compared to the outbreak of the SARS coronavirus in 2002 and 2003 (9.6 percent).
What is coronavirus?
It's a respiratory illness which belongs to the same family as the common cold.
The outbreak in the Chinese city of Wuhan – which is an international transport hub – began at a fish market in late December and since then more than 100 people have died, including a doctor who was treating the victims.
What are the symptoms?
The initial symptoms are not dissimilar to the common flu, as the virus belongs to the same family. They include a cough, headache, fatigue, fever, aching and difficulty breathing.
It is primarily spread through airborne contact or contact with contaminated objects.
How can I protect myself?
Health authorities recommend washing your hands and using sanitizer gel regularly, using disposable tissues and throwing them away, and covering your mouth with your elbow when you cough.
What should I do if I think I have it?
If you think you have the illness, do not go to hospital or your doctor's surgery. Health authorities are worried about potentially infected people turning up at hospitals and passing on the virus.
The Italian health ministry has set up a dedicated phone line, available by dialling 1500, to provide more information on the virus in Italian, English and Chinese.
In an emergency, you should always call the emergency number 112.
a fever – una febbre
a headache – un mal di testa
a cough – una tosse
a cold – un raffreddore
the flu – l'influenza
the coronavirus – il coronavirus