'Disinfecting non-stop' as Italy faces two new virus outbreaks
Rome (AFP) - Yellow Police Band - a familiar sight across Italy since the corona virus hit the country in March - reappeared the weekend before a squat in Rome, where about 15 new cases have occurred.
Health workers insist that the outbreak among squatters, including a Peruvian family, be under control at a time when Italy is cautiously easing disease containment measures, which killed more than 34,000 people.
A second outbreak was far larger and occurred in a hospital on the western edge of Rome with 109 cases and five deaths.
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Rome's regional COVID-19 crisis center said that anyone who tested positive for the virus in the illegally occupied building had been transferred. All of their contacts were identified and 108 tests carried out.
After the riot of booming ambulances to cope with the new group of cases, the southern working-class district of Garbatella returned to normal on Sunday, apart from the police band and a patrol car in front of the building, as well as a group of journalists.
You could see buyers with a mask buying groceries, a man walking with his dog, and throwing other garbage into a crowded trash can.
"Residents who are still in the building are locked up there," a police officer told AFP, adding that the Red Cross was delivering food to them.
Many of the windows were closed in the orange brick apartment block, typical of the buildings that emerged on the outskirts of Rome in the 1970s.
The squatters also get help from an NGO.
A clerk at a nearby grocery store who only gave his name when Ion said the residents were both South Americans and Italians, "workers, mostly families."
He added that some of the apartments share toilets.
"We don't worry much," he said. "We wear masks and are careful."
But Raffaele, a 77-year-old living nearby, complained that "there is absolutely no control over the constant coming and going of people from all over the world."
He feared that such transience could contribute to the spread of the coronavirus. "Let's say we are very careful, we disinfect continuously."
- 'No illusions' -
Meanwhile, two army vehicles were stationed outside San Raffaele Pisana hospital on Sunday, but the situation seemed to be under control.
Health officials said strict contact tracking is ongoing, with around 200 patients recently being tested.
The two new outbreaks of COVID-19 came when Italy emerged from the blockage in a gradual process that began in early May.
The epidemic appeared to be under control even in its epicenter in northern Lombardy.
"Nobody had any illusions that the problems were over," Ranieri Guerra, WHO deputy director, told Italian journalists. "It means that the virus hasn't lost its infectivity, it doesn't weaken ... we shouldn't give up our vigilance."
However, the Italian immunologist added: "Such micro-outbreaks were inevitable, but limited in time and space. And today we have the tools to intercept and limit them."
Italy, which was nationwide quarantined on March 10, was one of the most affected countries in the world by COVID-19, mainly in the north.
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