Brits 'held against their will' in Italy after testing positive for coronavirus
18th September 2020

Three young Brits who caught coronavirus while doing summer jobs in Italy say they are being ‘held against their will’ in grim quarantine facilities.

Will Castle, 22, Rhys James, 23 and Quinn Paczesny, 20, claim they’ve not had proper food or human contact since going into self-isolation a month ago.

The three friends were teaching English in Florence when they tested positive for the virus on August 17. They were taken to a hotel and put in small separate rooms which they are banned from leaving, meaning they can’t pass the time together.

None of the group have symptoms of coronavirus but are continuing to test positive after swab tests, which can pick up dead Covid cells for months.

Under the Italian system, patients must test negative for coronavirus twice at least 24 hours apart before they can be freed. Doctors believe the boys are not contagious but as there is no test to prove this, they face being stuck in quarantine indefinitely.

Will, from West Sussex, told ‘At about 4.30 in a hospital on August 17 we tested positive for coronavirus. Since then we have been on our own.

‘We are in the same hotel but different rooms which we are not allowed to leave at all, not even for exercise.

‘We have a health check every day but they are dressed head to toe in visas and hazmat suits. We have not properly had a conversation with anyone for quite a long time. It’s getting us all down.’

Will said the group have been facetiming over meals to keep their spirits up but the WiFi connection is so bad and quality of food so poor this can often be more frustrating than eating alone.

They aren’t allowed to order takeaways but have no friends and family nearby who could bring them decent food.

They’ve been moved to three separate facilities in the past month, but although they are transported together, they are not allowed to spend time with each other once they reach the quarantine sites, where they are closely monitored.

Will claims whenever they’ve been moved they’ve been given ‘no information, no hand sanitiser or soap, no food from the outside, no translated medical documents nor even locks on our doors’.

He said: ‘The hardest week was the second week. Out of nowhere we just got moved to a hospital with no WiFi.

‘I only had limited data, I could not facetime anyone or watch anything on Netflix. I don’t even know what I did to pass the time.

‘Our mood is really dependent on the food at the moment, which is not very good. It’s usually a small thing of pasta, a slice of meat and some kind of vegetable.

‘One of my friends is celiac and multiple times he has been given food with gluten. The pastoral care has just been really rubbish.’

Experts have questioned the effectiveness of needing two negative tests before being released from quarantine.

Doctors in South Korea raised global alarm in May when they noticed hundreds of people were still testing positive weeks after recovering in hospital, while in Montreal an infected pregnant woman hit the headlines for testing positive over a period of 55 days.

Dr Maria Van Kerkhove of the World Health Organisation (WHO) said some people may test positive more than once for coronavirus, but it doesn’t mean they have been reinfected or are still contagious.

She said dead coronavirus cells are part of the ‘healing process’ when lungs start to recover and may show up on swab tests.

‘It’s not infectious virus, it’s not reactivation, it’s actually part of the healing process that is showing up as positive,’ she told the Andrew Marr show in May.

WHO advises against requiring two negative tests before releasing people from quarantine, warning this could result in ‘long periods of isolation…affecting individual well-being’.

Their guidelines, which are followed in the UK, state patients who test positive should self-isolate for 10 days, after which the virus is no longer thought to be infectious.

Will and his friends say they are struggling to cope mentally after being isolated for so long and are desperate to be repatriated.

However, they don’t know where to turn after the British Embassy said it could not get involved in medical issues.

‘We have contacted our MPs and are just hoping to raise awareness of our situation,’ said Will.

‘We would happily take another test and isolate for a normal ten days [at home]. However, despite being right next to Florence Airport, we have told this is not possible.

‘I thought I would use the time to look for jobs but I don’t even know when I will be back so I can’t make any promises. For all we know we could still be here in October.’ has contacted the Italian Ministry of Health and British Embassy in Rome for comment.

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