Italy permits 422 rescued migrants to land in Sicily

Forty-nine tested positive for Covid-19 after health checks by local authorities

Migrants stand on the deck of the Ocean Viking rescue ship, in the Mediterranean Sea on Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021. A rescue ship with 422 migrants aboard, some of whom tested positive for COVID-19, is heading to Sicily. SOS Mediterranee, the humanitarian group which operates the rescue ship Ocean Viking, told The AP on Sunday that Italy granted the vessel permission to enter the port of Augusta. (Hippolyte/SOS Mediterranee via AP)
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More than 400 migrants rescued in the Mediterranean, 49 of whom have the coronavirus, arrived on the Italian island of Sicily.
The Ocean Viking docked at Augusta and health checks were carried out on the 422 migrants.

The search and rescue vessel, operated by French NGO SOS Méditerranée, made repeated requests for a safe place to land as a storm brewed in the Mediterranean.

The group said local health authorities informed the crew that 49 migrants - 41 of them adults - had tested positive for coronavirus.

The migrants were rescued during several search and rescue operations in the Mediterranean between February 4 and 5.

SOS Méditerranée said eight of the migrants, who are mostly from sub-Saharan Africa, initially tested positive on the ship after being rescued.

They were isolated on the aft of the ship.

Italy granted permission for the vessel to enter Augusta on Sunday, and on Monday, Italian health authorities conducted more testing aboard the ship before allowing the migrants to disembark.

The migrants were rescued during four separate operations, with 121 of them found on a flimsy rubber dinghy.

On Saturday, a pregnant woman was flown with her partner by helicopter to Malta for treatment.

The Ocean Viking was blocked by Italy from carrying out rescues for five months, but since its return on January 11 it has rescued 798 people.

More than 1,200 migrants and asylum seekers died in 2020 while attempting to cross the Mediterranean, according to the UN’s migration agency.