Italy's Former Deputy Prime Minister and right-wing politician Matteo Salvini has been widely condemned for his remarks after he blamed the coronavirus outbreak on the Italian government's "open borders policies," although many have also echoed his stance.
Salvini's statements seem to play on the public fears of the novel coronavirus, conforming with what some have called growing racist rhetoric against immigrants, especially toward people of Asian origins, accusing them of "bringing the virus."
Il Viminale ha autorizzato altri 200 sbarchi dalla nave SeaWatch a Messina. Ha ragione il governatore della Sicilia Musumeci, non è possibile che in un momento come questo il governo permetta lo sbarco di altre centinaia di immigrati: che l’Europa si svegli e se ne faccia carico. pic.twitter.com/RdKgIy2bw0— Matteo Salvini (@matteosalvinimi) February 26, 2020
Translation: "The Ministry of Interior has allowed 200 people to enter the country. The governor of Sicily Musumeci is right, at a time like this, the government can't keep allowing hundreds of other immigrants. Europe should wake up and take responsibility."
Salvini's attacks against immigrants have intensified since the outbreak of the coronavirus in Italy, which has the largest number of cases outside of Asia with almost 300 confirmed cases and 11 victims.
Even though authorities have not yet revealed details on how the near-epidemic disease has made its way to Italy, many Italian commentators took the chance to attack the government's immigration policies, linking immigrants to the widespread of the virus.
Have you noticed how the the mainstream Marxist media has been downplaying the dangers of #coronavirus : no need to close borders; nothing to do with Globalism, let's not be Racist...— The Rapier (@The__Rapier) February 22, 2020
Now we have 16 new cases in Italy, and 1 death. It was just a matter of time. #Codogno pic.twitter.com/urd5vI55RW
Chinese people population in Italy has grown rapidly in the past ten years. Official statistics indicate there are at least 320,794 Chinese citizens in Italy, although these figures do not account for illegal immigration. Highest concentration in Tuscany and Milan. #coronavirus— Lorrie Mack (@LorrieNJ50) February 24, 2020
One social media users went on to blame the virus on third world countries, warning of "other potential viruses" if the immigration influx continues.
If you need a reason to secure the borders and strengthen our immigration laws, the coronavirus and other potential viruses and disease from 3rd world countries and our enemies should be reason number 1. https://t.co/ifp1bXWXvy— Mikelash (@LeoCaz) February 25, 2020
Reactions have also made their way offline and in some cases have been violent.
A viral video showed a Filipino man being beaten in a supermarket by an Italian citizen who thought he was Chinese.
Un signore filippino, forse scambiato per cinese, è stato colpito al volto in un supermercato. Costretto a giustificarsi: “Io sono filippino, non sono cinese”. Ormai siamo alla follia ??♂️? #coronavirus pic.twitter.com/a1ae8iBubV— Giulio Pasqui (@GPasqui) February 24, 2020
Translation: "A Filipino gentleman mistaken for a Chinese man was beaten in the face in a supermarket. Forced to justify himself: 'I'm Filipino, I'm not Chinese.' We are now mad."
In their efforts to tackle the coronavirus surge in the country, Italian authorities have locked down 11 towns and canceled multiple gathering events, including the well-known Venice Festival.
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