The Trevi Fountain square in Rome is nearly empty as Italy remains under lockdown amid a coronavirus outbreak. (AFP-Yonhap)
Italian authorities swiftly approved two evacuation flights for South Koreans living in the European country, sources here said Thursday, as the government here takes further steps to protect its citizens from the novel coronavirus.
Seoul asked Italian civil aviation authorities to operate the two flights early Wednesday, with Rome giving permission before the end of the same day.
The two planes will bring back 581 people, with the first to depart Italy next Tuesday (local time), followed by second that will leave on Wednesday.
Korean Air, which will operate the flights, said that the planes are being sent to repatriate South Korean nationals in the face of the COVID-19 outbreak that is sweeping across many European countries. Italy is the hardest-hit country, with its death toll exceeding that of China.
Airline sources said it is extremely unusual for aviation authorities to approve flights so quickly. Normally such decisions take around five days.
South Korea's public health agency said all arrivals from Italy will be screened for symptoms at Incheon International Airport and will be ordered to go into self quarantine for 14 days. They will also be tested for viral infection three days after arrival. (Yonhap)