The Italian foreign ministry has drawn up plans to possibly evacuate Italians from Wuhan, the Chinese city where the deadly new SARS-like coronavirus virus was discovered.
One hypothesis currently being studied is to bring them out by land, on the condition that they will then agree to remain under observation for 14 days in a Chinese hospital in a safe region, sources said.
There are at present some 50 Italians in Wuhan, and in the surrounding Hubei region.
The Italian embassy in Beijing, liaising with the foreign ministry’s crisis unit, is in contact with all of them and is up to date on their plans.
An Italian health ministry info line on the virus was boosted on Monday with more information on the mystery bug and how to avoid getting it.
Callers to the 1500 number will be given info in Italian, English and Chinese.
Italy, like other countries, has urged citizens to avoid unnecessary trips to China amid fears over the virus’s rapid spread.
The respiratory virus has infected thousands and killed 81 since it was discovered in Wuhan last December.
The Chinese government has sealed off Wuhan and neighbouring cities, effectively trapping tens of millions of people – including thousands of foreigners – in a bid to contain the spread of the virus.
Its ability to spread appears to be “getting stronger” though it is “not as powerful as SARS”, top Chinese health officials said.