'Banksy boat' migrants board quarantine ship off Italy
"The first people have boarded the quarantine vessel and the operation is ongoing," Mattea Weihe, spokeswoman for the Sea-Watch humanitarian organisation told AFP.
Many have been on board under severely cramped conditions for the past 12 days, Weihe added.
Meanwhile at Palermo's Cervello hospital a migrant mother who tested positive for Covid-19 and her baby were undergoing treatment, Italian news agency ANSA said.
The woman went into labour at the crowded migrant holding centre on the southern island of Lampedusa on Tuesday and authorities decided it would be better to fly her to Palermo.
However, she gave birth as the helicopter neared the city of Agrigento, about 120 kilometres (75 miles) south of Palermo.
The transfers come as the latest arrivals fuel anger from local officials in Lampedusa and Sicily over a rise in illegal landings.
Sicily's regional governor, the right-leaning Nello Musumeci, and Lampedusa mayor Toto Martello were to meet Italian Prime Minister Guiseppe Conte on Wednesday in Rome to discuss the issue, news reports said.
The meeting comes after an Italian court last week slapped down a decree issued by Musumeci ordering the closure of migrant centres on the island to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
Despite the sharp rise, migrant arrivals are still far below the numbers recorded in recent years, especially before Rome signed a deal with Libya for its coast guard to prevent migrant departures.