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Italian ministers get police guard as tensions rise over crisis

AFP
AFP - [email protected]
Italian ministers get police guard as tensions rise over crisis
Photo: Andreas Solaro/AFP

Italy has placed a second government minister under police protection amid fears of physical violence as social tensions rise over the handling of the coronavirus outbreak.

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Police said that Italian education minister Lucia Azzolina has been given a police escort following threats against her

On Monday, deputy health minister Pierpaolo Sileri was given police protection after receiving threats in connection with coronavirus aid

And police were also asked on Wednesday to guard the governor of the Lombardy region, Attilio Fontana, after he was called a "murderer" in graffiti in Milan and received threats on social media.

Lombardy in northern Italy was the region hit hardest by the pandemic, which has killed over 33,000 people, and Fontana has been heavily criticised in some quarters for failing to curb the spread of the virus in the region.

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Italy is also struggling to restart following an economically-crippling nationwide lockdown which lasted two and a half months.

"There's a risk social tensions and exasperation could explode across the country," Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio said.

Both ministers under police protection belong to the anti-establishment Five Star Movement (M5S) which is part of Italy's ruling coalition, while Fontana is a member of the far-right populist League party, in opposition.

Fontana said he had not requested the escort and insisted it would in no way affect his work.

"Sadly we know that it's only a small step between verbal and physical violence... We will keep up our guard," Environment Minister Sergio Costa said.

"It's very troubling that such a climate of hate and threats has been created around schools, healthcare and other sensitive and important issues," he added.

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