Italian church-turned-morgue ‘finally empty’ of coffins

A church in Bergamo that served as an overspill morgue at the height of Italy's coronavirus epidemic "is finally empty", the mayor said on Saturday.

Italian church-turned-morgue 'finally empty' of coffins
Last month dozens of coffins were stored in the church of San Giuseppe in Seriate, near Bergamo, Lombardy. Photo: Piero CRUCIATTI / AFP

Where dozens of coffins once stood, nothing but flowers are left to be seen in a photograph tweeted by mayor Giorgio Gori that symbolises the easing of a crisis that has killed over 23,000 people in Italy.

Bergamo is in the wealthy northern region of Lombardy, which accounts for over half Italy's virus victims.

Italy's coronavirus emergency czar Domenico Arcuri said on Saturday that five times as many people had died in the region during the epidemic than had been killed in Milan during World War II bombings.

“We are living through a great tragedy, which we have not yet overcome,” he said, describing the nearly 12,000 Lombardy dead as an “astounding” figure.

Over 90 percent of Saturday's new coronavirus cases in Italy were in Lombardy, the civil protection agency said.

As local morgues failed to cope with the number of deaths in Bergamo, the country's worst-hit city, the Italian army was brought in last month to take dozens of coffins to churches and then to crematoriums in neighbouring cities.

Harrowing pictures emerged of officers in protective hazmat suits stacking coffins in churches.

Pallbearers bring the coffin of a deceased person to be stored in the church of San Giuseppe in Seriate, near Bergamo, Lombardy, on March 26, 2020, during the country's lockdown following the coronavirus pandemic. Photo: Piero CRUCIATTI / AFP

'Blink of an eye'

Gori said the death toll in Bergamo was much worse than officially recorded.

Some 795 Bergamo residents died in the six weeks since the start of March, 626 more than the average toll in the same period over the past ten years, he said last week.

Only 272 people were officially recorded to have died of the virus in Bergamo, as Italy logs deaths in hospitals but not in homes or assisted living facilities.

The epidemic has been slowly on the decline, with the number of intensive care patients in Lombardy falling below the 1,000 mark for the first time in a month Friday.

Many are urging the government to lift strict restrictions imposed for the country's two-month lockdown, which is due to expire on May 4 and has been crippling the economy.

But Arcuri said it was “blatantly wrong to talk about a conflict between health and economic recovery”.

“Without health and safety, economic recovery would last like the blink of an eye,” he said.

And the WHO's Italian government adviser Walter Ricciardi insisted a second wave of the virus was “not a hypothesis, it is a certainty. “That's why it is very important not to speed up the reopening,” he said.

Despite the warnings, some flouted the lockdown. The interior minister said it had caught 8,200 people breaking rules, including social distancing, aimed at preventing the spread of the virus Friday.

And in Saviano, a town near Naples, hundreds of people — including local law enforcement officers — thronged the streets on Saturday to pay their respects to their mayor, a doctor killed by the coronavirus, Italian media reported.

Member comments

  1. Why have the local stopped giving the daily death numbers over the last couple of days?
    Have you been told not to do so???

  2. I don’t understand why the coverage on is not daily. Why subscribe? This is not providing a consistent newsworthy platform….

  3. As a local daily, I have subscribed but these are the same stories as two days ago. Could you please explain?

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Covid face mask rule on flights in Europe set to be eased

The mandatory EU-wide mask requirement for air travel is set to be dropped from Monday, May 16th, but airlines may still require passengers to wear masks on some or all flights

Covid face mask rule on flights in Europe set to be eased

Europe-wide facemask rules on flights are set to be ditched as early as next week in light of new recommendations from health and air safety experts.

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) dropped recommendations for mandatory mask-wearing in airports and during flights in updated Covid-19 safety measures for travel issued on Wednesday, May 11th.

The new rules are expected to be rolled out from Monday, May 16th, but airlines may still continue to require the wearing of masks on some or all of flights. And the updated health safety measures still say that wearing a face mask remains one of the best ways to protect against the transmission of the virus.

The joint EASA/ECDC statement reminded travellers that masks may still be required on flights to destinations in certain countries that still require the wearing of masks on public transport and in transport hubs.

It also recommends that vulnerable passengers should continue to wear a face mask regardless of the rules, ideally an FFP2/N95/KN95 type mask which offers a higher level of protection than a standard surgical mask.

“From next week, face masks will no longer need to be mandatory in air travel in all cases, broadly aligning with the changing requirements of national authorities across Europe for public transport,” EASA executive director Patrick Ky said in the statement. 

“For passengers and air crews, this is a big step forward in the normalisation of air travel. Passengers should however behave responsibly and respect the choices of others around them. And a passenger who is coughing and sneezing should strongly consider wearing a face mask, for the reassurance of those seated nearby.”  

ECDC director Andrea Ammon added: “The development and continuous updates to the Aviation Health Safety Protocol in light of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic have given travellers and aviation personnel better knowledge of the risks of transmission of SARS-CoV-2 and its variants. 

“While risks do remain, we have seen that non-pharmaceutical interventions and vaccines have allowed our lives to begin to return to normal. 

“While mandatory mask-wearing in all situations is no longer recommended, it is important to be mindful that together with physical distancing and good hand hygiene it is one of the best methods of reducing transmission. 

“The rules and requirements of departure and destination states should be respected and applied consistently, and travel operators should take care to inform passengers of any required measures in a timely manner.”