Ebola: Italian governor says repatriate US military personnel

‘Why should we have to put up with these soldiers at risk of contagion’ asks Luca Zaia

In the week when an Italian businessman on a Dublin flight from Milan ended up in court because of an unfortunate private joke about the Ebola virus , it is worth pointing out that at least one Italian regional authority is most definitely not laughing about Ebola.

Luca Zaia, governor of the north-eastern Veneto region, this week called on US authorities to repatriate all US miliary personnel who have served in Ebola-struck Liberia rather than have them undergo quarantine on Italian soil.

Governor Zaia made his comments after 11 soldiers returned to the US base of Ederle in Vicenza this week after serving some weeks in Liberia, helping with the logistical preparations necessary to deal with the pandemic.

Although the US military assured Italian authorities that there was little risk of any of the soldiers having contracted Ebola during their time in Liberia, they were nonetheless placed in a 21 day quarantine.


Governor Zaia, however, felt that this was not good enough, telling Italian daily, “La Repubblica”, this week:

“Why should we have to put up with these soldiers at risk (of contagion)...How come no one asks what is the basis of the principle whereby they bring back soldiers from a country that is on red alert because of a killer disease and they send them to Italy?

“If it was up to me, then these soldiers, despite all my sympathy for the USA, should be sent home to the States...It’s a case of Veneto people first and after that come the Americans, all the more so if we are talking about a health issue...”

Given that it is expected that another 30 US military personnel will be brought back to Vicenza from Liberia this weekend, the issue seems set to remain highly controversial.

The local branch of the M5S protest party has called for all personnel who have served in Liberia to be “sent back to Washington” whilst, in the meantime, emergency services in Vicenza have been inundated with calls for information on the disease and its contagion level.

Partly in response to the concern expressed by Vicenza citizens, the minister for health Beatrice Lorenzin this week felt obliged to reassure parliament that, so far, Italy has no Ebola problem.

On the US soldiers, she saidif it turned out one of them did contract the disease, then they would be “transferred directly from the military base to the USA”.