Italian Governor: I Was Called ‘Racist’ for Wanting to Test China Travelers in February

MILAN, ITALY - FEBRUARY 25: A woman, wearing a respiratory mask, walks past a placard showing a handshake between two hands representing the Chinese and the Italian national flags and reading 'The enemy is the virus, not the people. Go China!' in the Paolo Sarpi district (Milan's Chinatown) on February …
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The governor of the Italian region most devastated by the Chinese coronavirus said he was called “racist” by his colleagues in government for wanting coronavirus tests for travellers coming into Italy from China in early February.

Lombardy Governor Attilio Fontana said he was “mocked with insolent words” and called “racist” by his colleagues in February because he had asked for coronavirus testing for people coming in from China, according to a report by La Repubblica.

“Your Prime Minister, on February 3, said publicly: ‘don’t worry, you don’t have to foresee any pandemic because our system is ready to face any kind of emergency,'” said Fontana to his center-left opposition during a debate on Italy’s coronavirus crisis on Tuesday.

Fontana is a member of Italy’s Lega Party – or “the League” – currently led by former deputy prime minister Matteo Salvini.

“I am surprised that you accuse me of underestimating the problem,” added the governor of Lombardy, while someone in the room shouted “Shame!” at him.

Nevertheless, Fontana continued, proclaiming that he had been called “racist” for wanting to check people coming in from China before the coronavirus crisis started in Italy.

“You were the ones who told me that I was racist when I asked for checks on all citizens who came back from China,” said Fontana. “I was mocked with insolent words.”

“I was told that I was the cause of Italy’s loss of credibility with the world because I tried to warn that the rules had to be strictly followed because otherwise we would have ended up in a dramatic situation,” he added.

The governor then pointed his finger at Italy’s Higher Institute of Health, the Istituto Superiore di Sanità (ISS), regarding the ISS making a company in Lombardy (capable of producing 900,000 masks per day) wait for a certification to do so.

“Unfortunately, the Higher Institute of Health said that the first meeting to evaluate this certification has been postponed to next week,” said Fontana.

“I believe they should not say, ‘We’ll give an answer in a few weeks,’ thinking that they’re doing us a favor,” he added. “We need answers in hours, not weeks.”

“Unless they [ISS] have yet to realize that we are in a state of emergency,” the governor quipped. “Since no one gives us masks anyway, at least give us permission to produce them.”

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

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