Outside China, in Europe, Italy is thought to be ground zero for the Coronavirus pandemic. Many have sought to understand why. The Right Wire Report wondered why as well. Many believe it was just time and chance, but perhaps not, and perhaps the pandemic started many years ago.
Prato, Italy, is the historical capital of Italy’s textile business. It has attracted the largest concentration of Chinese-run textile workshops in Europe within less than 20 years. Prato, which lies 25 km (16 miles) from the Renaissance jewel of Florence, is also a thriving hub of illegality committed by both Italians and Chinese. As many as 50,000 Chinese live and work in the area (200,000 in Italy overall), making clothes bearing the prized “Made in Italy” label, which sets them apart from garments produced in China itself, even at the lower end of the fashion business.
Reuters reported back in 2013 – In some ways, the Chinese community of Prato has succeeded where Italian companies have failed, though competing with companies using illegal workers makes legitimate business problematic. Italy’s economy has barely grown over the past decade and is only just emerging from recession, partly due to the inability of many small manufacturers to keep up with the global competition. Up to two-thirds of the Chinese in Prato are illegal immigrants, according to local authorities. This report was in 2013, but even in 2007, this phenomenon was reported on by the BBC and reported the problem started even as far back as the 1990s.
About 90% of the Chinese Italian factories – virtually all of which are rented out to Chinese entrepreneurs by Italians who own the buildings – break the law in various ways, says Aldo Milone, the city councilor in charge of security. But part of the problem is that 60% of Chinese workshops last just two years, often closing and reopening under a different name to evade checks by tax authorities. Illegal immigrants found by the police are ordered to leave Italy within five days, but there is no way of making sure that they actually do so, said the city councilor for security, Milone. “It’s a joke,” he said. Here is a past video report on the Italian-Chinese situation in Italy:
So the Italian-Chinese connection was well established prior to the Coronavirus pandemic. On December 31, 2019, the World Health Organization (WHO) was informed of an outbreak of “pneumonia of unknown cause” detected in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China – the seventh-largest city in China with 11 million residents. Wuhan is a world-renown textile hub in China that exports its trade globally. Wuhan even has a world-renown textile university, Wuhan Textile University, having 21 schools and 20,000 students and has a global reach.
Infected travelers, primarily via air travel, are known to be responsible for introductions of the virus outside Wuhan. On January 13, 2020, Thailand reported the first international case outside China, while the first cases within China, but outside of Wuhan were reported on January 19, in Guangdong and Beijing. The risk of further Coronavirus transmission was exacerbated, resulting from high travel volumes and mass gatherings in celebration of the Chinese New Year on January 24, 2020. Then surprise, at the first of February Italy has a Coronavirus problem.
The search for patient zero in Italy has come up with several ideas. Was patient zero from Germany? A Pakistani Migrant? A local farmer with a Chinese contact? Or someone else? The caution here is that the zero patient’s identity will be politicized in order to support the political idea of open-borders – or the reverse.
Has this Italian-Chinese illegal immigration connection made Italy one of the epicenters of the Coronavirus pandemic? Of course, once Italy was infected, the entire content of Europe is now experiencing the pandemic. Once the pandemic ends, the nations of the world will need to take a hard look at future immigration policies for no other reason than to prevent future pandemics.