Italian ministers furious at French ‘coronavirus pizza’ joke

A French television channel apologised to Italy on Tuesday for airing a mock advert for "corona pizza" in which a coughing chef hacks green phlegm onto Italy's national dish.

Italian ministers furious at French 'coronavirus pizza' joke
Italy's service sector is suffering as customers stay home amid the coronavirus outbreak. Photo: Miguel Medina/AFP

Foreign minister Luigi Di Maio slammed a 10-second gag on the satirical Groland programme on French network Canal+, in which the red tomato base, white mozzarella and green mucus make up the colours of the Italian national flag, as “bad taste and unacceptable”.

LATEST: New coronavirus infections in Italy show signs of slowing

Globally, more than 3,100 people have died of the coronavirus and over 90,000 have been infected.

Italy is the worst-hit country in Europe, with 79 deaths and over 2,500 people infected.

“Here's the new Italian pizza, which is going to spread around the world,” the fake advert says.

Countries from Britain to China and France have reported cases of people bringing the virus back with them from Italy.

“Making fun of the Italians like that, with the coronavirus emergency we are facing, is profoundly disrespectful”, Di Maio said, adding that he had ordered the Italian embassy in Paris to voice Rome's displeasure.

He insisted the media were “morally obliged” not to spread disinformation, saying the Italian economy was paying the price.

The tourism sector in Italy has been hit particularly hard, with lots of airlines cutting or reducing flights to the north, where the outbreak is concentrated, and hotels reporting widespread cancellations while monuments and museums lie eerily empty.

Soon after Di Maio's comments, Canal+ issued a statement admitting that its joke was “in very bad taste”.

Canal+ said it had removed the clip from its reruns and replay channel, and was “sending a letter of apology to the Italian ambassador to Paris this [Tuesday] afternoon”.

READ ALSO: Is it still safe to visit Italy after the coronavirus outbreak?

The unusually empty Piazza del Duomo in Milan. Photo: Miguel Medina/AFP

Earlier Italy's agricultural minister Teresa Bellanova slammed the video as “shameful and horrifying”.

“This is not satire, it's an insult to an entire nation,” she said. “As the European and international authorities have repeatedly stated, it is not transmitted through food.”

Despite that, Di Maio said unspecified countries had “called for a 'virus free' label on Italian products”.

The French joke also bombed with Italian farmers' association Coldiretti. It slammed it a “stab in the back” for the Made in Italy industry, worth some €5 billion in exports to France, the second largest market after Germany.


Italy and France historically compete on wine, cheese and bubbles, with Prosecco giving Champagne a run for its money.

The Alpine neighbours have long had turbulent relations. The last time the neighbours swapped outright insults was under Italy's populist government, when political and diplomatic dialogue effectively ground to a halt.

But Di Maio opted on Tuesday for the moral high ground, inviting the video's makers “to come and eat pizza in Italy, a pizza like they have never eaten in their lives”.

Canal+ made no mention of Di Maio's offer in its statement.

READ ALSO: 'Sadness and fear won't solve problems': Italians respond to coronavirus with wine and jokes

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WHO expects more monkeypox-related deaths in Europe

The World Health Organization's European office said Saturday that more monkeypox-related deaths can be expected, following reports of the first fatalities outside Africa, while stressing that severe complications were still be rare.

WHO expects more monkeypox-related deaths in Europe

“With the continued spread of monkeypox in Europe, we will expect to see more deaths,” Catherine Smallwood, Senior Emergency Officer at WHO Europe, said in a statement.

Smallwood emphasised that the goal needs to be “interrupting transmission quickly in Europe and stopping this outbreak”.

However, Smallwood stressed that in most cases the disease heals itself without the need for treatment.

“The notification of deaths due to monkeypox does not change our assessment of the outbreak in Europe. We know that although self-limiting in most cases, monkeypox can cause severe complications,” Smallwood noted.

The Spanish health ministry recorded a second monkeypox-related death on Saturday, a day after Spain and Brazil reported their first fatalities.

The announcements marked what are thought to be the first deaths linked to the current outbreak outside Africa.

Spanish authorities would not give the specific cause of death for the fatalities pending the outcome of an autopsy, while Brazilian authorities underlined that the man who died had “other serious conditions”.

“The usual reasons patients might require hospital care include help in managing pain, secondary infections, and in a small number of cases the need to manage life-threatening complications such as encephalitis,” Smallwood explained.

According to the WHO, more than 18,000 cases have been detected throughout the world outside of Africa since the beginning of May, with the majority of them in Europe.

The WHO last week declared the monkeypox outbreak a global health emergency.

As cases surge globally, the WHO on Wednesday called on the group currently most affected by the virus — men who have sex with men — to limit their sexual partners.

Early signs of the disease include a high fever, swollen lymph glands and a chickenpox-like rash.

The disease usually heals by itself after two to three weeks, sometimes taking a month.

A smallpox vaccine from Danish drug maker Bavarian Nordic, marketed under the name Jynneos in the United States and Imvanex in Europe, has also been found to protect against monkeypox.