“I don't understand why the premier doesn't declare a state of emergency” on Lampedusa, Martello told the newspaper.
Arriving migrants were linked to several dozen recent coronavirus clusters. Concern is growing among health authorities that Italy's number of new confirmed cases, which had been largely contained by June, could again start surging out of control.
Unless they come from countries specifically exempted from mandatory precautionary, such as most European Union countries and some others, foreigners must do 14 days quarantine upon entering Italy.
Tunisian migrants fleeing their country's worsening economic situation aren't generally considered eligible for asylum. Italy has a repatriation deal with Tunisia for weekly flights to send back those who fail to obtain permission to stay. The flights were suspended during the brunt of the virus epidemic in Italy but resumed July 16.
Still, Tunisians keep coming, in small fishing boats sturdy enough to reach Lampedusa's shores, on occasion sailing into coves or docking near beaches where vacationers are swimming on the tourism-dependent island.
Italian Interior Minister Luciana Lamorgese told the daily Corriere della Sera newspaper that Italy is trying to arrange with the Tunisian government the possibility of using boats to increase the number of weekly repatriations.
Asked about fears that migrants might trigger more virus clusters in Italy when they are transferred to holding centers on the mainland, Lamorgese replied: “The local communities are rightly sensitive to the subject of health safety.”