Italian Students Flee Coronavirus Epicenter, Spread Virus to Parents

Students walk by Rome's "Giulio Cesare" secondary classic school on March 5, 2020 after Italy closed all schools and universities until March 15 to help combat the spread of the novel coronavirus crisis. - The government decision was announced moments after health officials said the death toll from COVID-19 had …
VINCENZO PINTO/AFP via Getty Images

Young Italians attending college in Italy’s heavily-infected northern regions have returned home to the nation’s south, putting its health system at risk of collapse. Southern regions are now seeing a steady increase of coronavirus patients — many of whom are the parents of students who come back from the north.

Italy’s southern regions are now at risk of a hospital crisis due to the coronavirus after the indiscriminate return of students and workers from the heavily-infected northern regions of Lombardy and Veneto, according to a report by La Repubblica.

Following Italy’s nationwide lockdown just two weeks ago, students — and other Italians temporarily living in the north — returned home to the nation’s south, where they have been spreading the coronavirus to their relatives.

While Italy remains the epicenter of Europe’s Wuhan virus crisis — with death tolls and confirmed cases continuing to surge each day — the disease has been largely contained in the nation’s north.

But now, according to Italy’s Civil Protection agency, the parents of students who came back from the north are becoming infected with the Chinese virus.

More than 23,000 people have declared themselves as having returned from Lombardy and Veneto to Italy’s southern Puglia region, reports La Repubblica.

But the number of those who came back is likely higher than recorded, as many who fled the north did after quarantine rules had already been established by the Italian government.

The report added that last week alone, roughly 15 percent of the people who checked in at health facilities in Puglia had fever or at least flu symptoms — many of them relatives of students who returned from the north.

Thus, it is believed that infected — or asymptomatic — individuals who came back have been spreading the coronavirus to their family and friends.

“We are treating many parents of the children who have returned from the north,” said Gioacchino Angarano, the chief of the infectious diseases department at the Polyclinic in Puglia.

Moreover, Italy’s Prevention Departments of the Local Health Authorities have discovered that the 466 people from Puglia who tested positive with coronavirus on Friday had direct or indirect contact with people who recently passed through the Lombardy or Veneto red zones.

“There is not even one off-chain case,” health authorities said.

While the confirmed coronavirus cases in Italy’s southern regions remain significantly lower than those in the north, those who test positive for the disease have nonetheless been steadily increasing while health officials implement strict containment measures.

“They must not be loosened for any reason,” said health officials.

You can follow Alana Mastrangelo on Twitter at @ARmastrangelo, and on Instagram.

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