Army deployed to control coronavirus hotspot near Naples
MONDRAGONE – A ‘red zone’ sealed off by police for four days after 49 people tested positive for coronavirus has led to a spike in tensions that risks ‘civil war’ between Bulgarian agricultural workers and Italian nationals. The Italian Interior Minister, Luciana Lamorgese, decided to send in approximately 100 soldiers from the Italian army in an attempt to coordinate public order and health efforts, according to the regional governor of Campania, Vincenzo De Luca.
Mondragone, in the province of Caserta, is a coastal town north of Naples where a group of Bulgarian nationals living in abandoned buildings breached the perimiters of the red zone before police managed to get them back inside. Some 700 residents in four blocks had been ordered to stay home, but the authorities have lost track of some of those who tested positive, according to local media reports
On Thursday the protests escalated after counter protesters gathered outside the buildings, accusing the police of having been too permissive with the Bulgarians. After two chairs were thrown from a balcony, one of which injured a policeman, Italians threw stones and broke windows of parked Bulgarian cars, and a Bulgarian owned van was set on fire during the night, for which the firefighters were called, as reported in Quotidiano and Avvenire.
According to Rodolfo Punzi, the director of the infectious disease department of Cotugno, although local authorities should be on their guard, the possibility of an outbreak spreading "depends on the movements and mobility of individuals and their contacts. This Bulgarian community is permanent, lives and works in Caserta. So the risk is low and I think the situation is under control,” he said, as quoted from nextquotidiano.
The pandemic has worsened pre-existing economic and legal disparities, and for the Bulgarian workers living and working outside of the protection of the legal system and without rights, without work contracts and in need of income, Mondragone represents a deep structural problem in the agri-sector in southern Italy.
In the north of Italy, another hotspot threatens to break out, with around 40 employees of a transport-and-delivery firm in Bologna having contacted coronavirus. The company has closed a warehouse but has not halted activity.