Trains blocked at the Brenner Pass, compatriots repatriated, Italy "discouraged" by many governments. Minister Di Maio, what are you planning to do?
"My Austrian colleague called me to explain that trains had immediately left, while in Mauritius diplomatic channels were activated to assist the Italians. These are sporadic cases, I say that we all have to tell the reality to fight psychosis, not to feed it".
Is Italy in danger of being isolated?
"We are a strong, transparent and responsible country and this is an appeal that I want to send to the whole international community. Our communication abroad will be couched in transparency, which in these cases is the reliability measure for a country. It is no coincidence that today I was on a teleconference with our ambassadors in Switzerland, Croatia, France, Germany, Austria, Slovenia and Monaco".
And what is your message?
"We will send a daily report to all our embassies so that they can raise awareness amongst counterparts. We will update all the governments of the world with the utmost clarity, also to support Italians travelling abroad and our diplomatic corps which is working with great professionalism. I want to point out that, at the moment, there are two outbreaks involving about 50 thousand people out of 60 million citizens".
Yet closing orders are multiplying. Are they really necessary?
"Any measure in line with the precautions suggested by the National Health Authority is necessary. The aim is to contain the contagion, which is why we have implemented a monitoring system in the two outbreak areas. As Commissioner Borrelli has stated, new infections occur within the monitored areas. This is a new virus and it has to be carefully monitored. Our priority must be Italians’ health”.
Is there the risk of suspension of air and rail traffic and the closure of schools and universities throughout Italy?
"We aim to limit the contagion and as a precautionary measure we will take actions to keep the perimeter of the virus restricted. It is natural, if we did not do so it would be a problem".
The contagion has suddenly exploded, while other European countries have low numbers. Is it because we do a lot of checking?
"It is clear that we have done a lot of throat swabs, probably more than in all other European countries".
In light of what is happening, do you recognise the mistake of blocking direct flights to China?
"We have implemented the most stringent measures in Europe, to the point that EU itself has acknowledged it. It was an act of duty and extreme precaution. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is doing a great deal of work for which I want to thank the diplomatic corps, the Crisis Unit, the Embassy in Beijing and every single official. We monitor hundreds of cases every day, we have brought Niccolò and about one hundred compatriots home, in extreme security.
Yet many have escaped controls.
"It can happen, but we have implemented strict measures."
The government has announced the suspension of payments of instalments and bills. What else are you going to do?
"We are going to support the economic framework and families in the affected areas, but we will approve a decree to help the whole Country system. The protection of exports, which is worth 32% of our GDP, is among our priorities ".
You promised 300 million to support exports. What happened to them?
"They have already been allocated and will support our Made in Italy and our excellences, also towards more established markets, given that the Asian region will inevitably suffer a setback. But I think more will be needed".
"On 3rd March there will be an extraordinary meeting at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs with the business community and the Foreign Trade Institute in order to decide together on the greatest possible support".
The stock market crashed yesterday. Is Italy in danger of recession?
"The less time we take to contain the virus, the fewer problems we will have. There will be some difficulties, of course, but I would not make such projections".
A gap is being created between North and South.
"We demand sense of responsibility from every governor and from all political parties, this is the time to be united and compact, no need for impromptu initiatives and forward-looking escapes.
Do you agree with Prime Minister Conte accusing the regions led by Lega party of having caused the breach?
"The spirit of this government is to work with maximum unity for Italians’ safety. Someone is not doing it and continues to speculate. We could do it, as well, about many issues, but we are not that kind of people".
Do relations with China remain strained?
"We continue to maintain very good relations. I want to reiterate our solidarity with the Chinese people and the people affected".
Are you scared?
"My family and my dearest loved ones live in this country. Every day I tell them that only the right precautions must be taken. It is a new virus and it needs to be monitored, as we are doing.”