Italy has ordered 156 migrants on board a German rescue ship off the western coast of Sicily to be transferred to another vessel and quarantined.
The migrants, mostly from Africa and the Middle East, must then undergo health checks, Italian officials said.
The German rescue vessel, Alan Kurdi, has been refused access to Italian and Maltese ports over coronavirus fears.
Italy’s transport ministry said the move was necessary because Sicily’s health services were already stretched.
Allowing the migrants to disembark from the Alan Kurdi ship, operated by the German humanitarian group Sea-Eye, would put too much pressure on the island’s local authorities, Italy’s civil protection chief Angelo Borrelli said.
As of Sunday, Italy as a whole had reported 19,899 coronavirus deaths and more than 156,363 confirmed infections.
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