The whole of Italy (home of some 60 mil of people) was placed under quarantine as the government stepped up efforts to tackle the coronavirus outbreak that has killed 631 people and affected more than 10,000. Nicola Minasi, ambassador of Italy to Bosnia and Herzegovina spoke for interview.ba about todays situation with coronavirus in Italy, are diplomats also baned for traveling and what lessons BiH can learn from Italy in fight against coronavirus.
INTERVIEW.BA: What is the situation today in Italy regarding coronavirus?
MINASI: The situation is developing constantly, our authorities are fully alert and the medical structures are working day and night in the most affected areas. The latest reports show that the infection has continued to spread in the last few days, so we are doing everything possible to reduce the occasions for physical contact and slow down the infection rate. This will help in bringing down the number of infected people, focusing on them and overcoming the disease.
INTERVIEW.BA: Do you have an information about how many Italian people cannot leave BiH and go home for Italy? Are there available data about how many of Bosnians cannot leave Italy because of the quarantine?
MINASI: All foreigners who are in Italy and want to leave the country are free to do so, as long as they respect the medical precautions and head for the exit routes, so going out is always possible, although the cancellation of flights might make that a bit harder. Moreover, all public health facilities are open to affected people regardless of their origins and many foreigners are being treated in Italian hospitals at the moment. We are in touch with the Italian population in BiH and we see a responsible approach. Most of those who are here are residents of BiH anyway, so they are at home and are postponing trips to Italy for the time being.
INTERVIEW.BA: Are the diplomats also under the quarantine rules? Have you recently visited Italy or you perhaps plan to do so in the near future?
MINASI: I’ve not been to Italy for the last few months and in any case all Embassy personnel is advised not to go home until the crisis is over. In any case both myself, colleagues from the Embassy and the other Italians in the country respect the local rules. However we are not foreseeing any visit and those which had been planned are now postponed.
INTERVIEW.BA: Are they already some prediction how much this epidemic will influence on economy of Italy? How will effect Bosnia and Italy trade deals?
MINASI: This situation is already damaging the economy, especially tourism, airlines and the hotel industry. Yet the country-wide isolation is necessary to reduce the risks, bring the disease under control and overcome the emergency. We need to do this for both our population and the rest of Europe. Italy has been the first to adopt such drastic measures and is leading the way in the continent: we hope this will also help everybody else to react effectively and more successfully.
In terms of exchanges with BiH, we are in touch with all the Italian companies here and monitoring the situation. Many local companies give a crucial contribution to production lines in Italy, so it’s very important to keep that going.The current measures affect only the transport of people, not goods, so it is important that truck transport goes on in both directions, so it is being facilitated and protected. Also, shops in Italy are fully stocked and functioning normally.
INTERVIEW.BA: Could you give us an advise – lessons learnt from Italy to fight coronavirus in Bosnia?
MINASI: Our experience shows that, regardless of major government decisions, such as closing schools and banning mass gatherings, it is key that the public understands its own role in prevention. Washing hands constantly, staying home, respecting interpersonal distance and avoiding touching eyes, mouth and nose are all crucial steps to stop the virus from spreading. The disease is not visibile for at least 14 days and during this period each person can easily infect at least other two people, even without being aware of the disease. So personal attention is very important and can make a difference.For the rest, as our Foreign Minister, Mr. Luigi Di Maio said yesterday, Italy stands ready to share its own experience with all other countries to help fight the disease together.