Coronavirus | Italy’s Ambassador to India defends Rome’s response to outbreak

Coronavirus | Italy’s Ambassador to India defends Rome’s response to outbreak

Vincenzo de Luca thanks India for aid to Italian tourists.

Denying that Italy has been lax in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, Italian Ambassador to India Vincenzo de Luca has said that the government in Rome took “immediate, progressive and serious” actions to contain the virus.

Italy has emerged as one of the worst-affected countries after the virus manifested in China’s Hubei province and has now spread to most parts of the world.

After Wednesday, when Italy saw a 30% jump in deaths due to the virus within a day, with more than 800 dead and about 12,500 people infected, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte announced a shutdown of all commercial establishments except grocery stores and pharmacies.

Cites WHO praise

Asked if the measures came too late, Mr. Luca said even the World Health Organisation (WHO) had praised Italy for responding “energetically”.

“Since the beginning of the emergency, our government adopted restrictive measures that were extended to the whole national territory: Italy is in lockdown. Severe restrictions to mobility, except for very limited purposes, are in force. These measures have already proven to be effective in those territories that were the first to adopt them,” he said in written responses to The Hindu.

Given the large number of cases in Italy, and confirmed infections in as many as 15 Italian tourists as well as several Indians who either came into contact with them or had returned from Italy, New Delhi has decided to block any passengers from boarding flights to India from any Italian airport without undergoing COVID-19 tests there. The move has led to more than 300 Indians being stranded at Italian airports.

According to Mr. Luca, the Indian Embassy in Rome and the Embassy of Italy in Delhi have been “working closely” and a task force has been set up in Delhi along with the Ministries of External Affairs, Health and Family Welfare and Tourism.

“Thanks to their efficient and prompt cooperation, which Italy is extremely grateful for, it was possible to assure assistance to the Italian nationals who are currently being treated in Delhi and in Jaipur,” he added.

He did not, however, provide details of how stranded Indians would be looked after as they await Indian medical teams and three special relief flights to evacuate them over the next few days.

The Italian Ambassador also said the COVID-19 pandemic “is teaching us that health is the most important global public good. We are faced with the challenge to preserve it, and to do so, there is no alternative to international solidarity and cooperation.”

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