COVID-19 cluster among migrants causes angry confrontations in southern Italian town

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An Italian soldier stands near a residential complex, where 49 people tested positive for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) and that was cordoned off after it was placed under quarantine, in the village of Mondragone, northwest of Naples, Italy, June 26, 2020. REUTERS/Ciro De Luca

MONDRAGONE, Italy (Reuters) – Italy has sent soldiers to restore order in a coastal town near Naples after a coronavirus outbreak at an apartment complex illegally occupied by hundreds of migrant workers caused angry confrontations with residents.

The authorities announced on Thursday that more than 40 people living at the abandoned buildings in Mondragone, 45 km from Naples, had tested positive for COVID-19, and warned the entire town could be quarantined if the outbreak proves widespread.

The apartment buildings were sealed off to prevent the spread of infection but footage on RAI state TV from Thursday showed a group of residents defying the order to stay put and marching through the town in protest at what they said was racist discrimination.

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Many of those living at the complex are Bulgarians working as seasonal fruit pickers in the fields around the town. Italian residents on the street chanted “Mondragone is ours” and gathered outside the sealed off are, resulting in both sides shouting abuse at each other, footage showed.

Soldiers were manning barricades and police checks were in place on Friday around the housing complex, as residents complained they were blocked inside with little information about what was happening.

At least 3,000 of those living in and around the occupied buildings will be tested for the coronavirus, Vincenzo De Luca, the governor of the Campania region around the town.

Campania has been only marginally hit by the COVID-19 epidemic whose epicentre is in four northern regions which account for 70% of the roughly 240,000 cases confirmed since the outbreak was discovered at the end of February.

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