Tensions rise at virus hotspot apartments in southern Italy

MONDRAGONE, ITALY (AP) — The governor of a southern Italian region insisted yesterday that Bulgarian farm workers who live in an apartment complex with dozens of COVID-19 cases must stay inside for 15 days, not even emerging for food.

Wearing a mask to discourage virus spread, Campania Governor Vincenzo De Luca told reporters that the national civil protection agency should deliver groceries to the estimated 700 occupants of the apartments in Mondragone, a seaside town about 50 kilometres northwest of Naples.

The complex must be kept in “rigorous isolation”, De Luca said. That means that for 15 days, “nobody leaves and nobody enters” the apartments, where some 50 cases have been confirmed.

The south has been spared the high numbers of coronavirus cases that have ravaged northern Italy.

Known for his particularly hard line on anti-contagion measures throughout the nationwide coronavirus outbreak this year, De Luca has vowed to lock down all of Mondragone, population 30,000, if the number of cases at the hotspot reach 100.

Police officers stand at a roadblock in front of a big apartment complex where dozens of COVID-19 cases have been registered among a community of Bulgarian farm workers, in Mondragone. PHOTO: AP

“Have I been clear? I’m used to speaking clearly,’’ De Luca told RAI state TV.

The apartment complex was put under lockdown earlier in the week, and all of its residents were ordered to be tested for the virus, after a handful of cases surfaced.

The Campania region has requested police reinforcements to impose the quarantine on the complex. De Luca said the Interior Ministry had authorised an army contingent.

The apartment residents have balked at staying indoors in these hot, steamy summer days. Tensions flared on Thursday, with Italians in the streets jeering at the Bulgarian residents of the apartment complex.