Italy: Migrant woman with covid-19 gives birth in helicopter

Baby born in mid-air between Lampedusa and Palermo.

A migrant woman who tested positive for covid-19 gave birth to a baby on board a helicopter as she was flying to Sicily from the tiny southern Italian island of Lampedusa on 1 September, reports Italian news agency ANSA.

The woman, who went into labour at a migrant holding centre in Lampedusa, was transferred by helicopter to Palermo, about an hour away, after Sicilian health authorities deemed it safer for her to give birth at the city's Cervello hospital due to her covid-19 status.

However there was not enough time and the woman gave birth on board the helicopter as it neared the city of Agrigento on the southern coast of Sicily, according to the Sicilian regional government.

Both mother and baby are currently being treated at Cervello hospital in Palermo.

Paying tribute to the emergency services, Sicily's health councillor Ruggero Razza said: "For us the right to health of all is the only guiding light."

In recent weeks the Sicilian and national governments have clashed regularly over the migrant issue, with the regional governor Nello Musumeci accusing Rome of "silence" and not providing adequate resources to deal with the landings from Africa.

There has been a significant rise in the number of migrants making the perilous journey across the Mediterranean this year, after a decline in recent years.

Around 19,400 have landed in Italy so far in 2020, compared to around 5,200 in the same period last year, according to official data, reports Reuters news agency.

With migrant centres in Sicily struggling to cope with the overcrowded conditions, the centre-right Musumeci tweeted on 22 August: "Sicily can't continue to put up with this invasion of migrants."

A subsequent ordinance by Musumeci, ordering the closure of the island's migrant hotspots and reception centres over alleged covid-19 concerns, was suspended in recent days by the regional administrative court in Palermo.

Photo ANSA