Rome — Italy has deployed soldiers to help secure a residential complex in the country's south where 49 people have tested positive for COVID-19. Thecluster in the small town of Mondragone, north of Naples, was discovered on Monday among a community of Bulgarian farm workers who live in the compound.
The regional governor declared a "red zone" around the compound, barring residents from leaving, and fences were set up around apartment buildings to keep people in. Still, 13 of the 49 people known to have the virus managed to slip out through the cordon and have yet to be found.
The five buildings, home to about 700 people, have been surrounded by cement blocks and fences, and the perimeter is guarded around the clock by police, and now army troops.
On Friday, the leader of the Campania region said the civil protection agency would deliver food to the residents. But Governor Vincenzo De Luca insisted the complex must be kept under "rigorous isolation," meaning that for 15 days "nobody leaves and nobody enters."
Many of the residents are undocumented agricultural workers from Bulgaria, making them harder for authorities to track and trace. Officials fear those who managed to flee the area may have done so to avoid losing their earnings as day laborers in the surrounding farm fields - meaning they could spread the virus further.
The coronavirus outbreak has exacerbated existing tension between the seasonal Bulgarian worker community and Mondragone locals.
On Thursday morning, local media reported that hundreds of Bulgarians took to the streets within the cordoned-off area to protest the lockdown, saying they needed to get back to work.
An angry Italian crowd gathered in the afternoon at the blockade perimeter, accusing local authorities of being too lenient with the Bulgarian workers.
After a Bulgarian threw a chair from his window, the Italians threw rocks back and smashed the windows of vehicles belonging to the Bulgarians, while chanting, "we are Mondragone."
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