‘We want truth and justice’: Families of Italy’s coronavirus victims file complaint

Fifty relatives of coronavirus victims in Italy filed official complaints on Wednesday over the handling of the pandemic, in the first such legal group action in Italy.

'We want truth and justice': Families of Italy's coronavirus victims file complaint
Members of the "Noi Denunceremo" (We will report) committee outside the Bergamo's prosecutor building on June 10th. Photo: Miguel Medina/AFP

“We don't want revenge, we want justice,” said Stefano Fusco, 31, who created a group on Facebook to reach out to others in similar situations after his grandfather died of the virus in a care home in March.

Italy’s official death toll – which many experts believe is underestimated – is now over 34,000.

The complaints were filed at the prosecutors' office in the city of Bergamo, in Lombardy, northern Italy, the area worst hit by the pandemic, “because it has become the symbol of this tragedy, though they come from across the country,” Fusco said.

A parish priest stands by bodies of Covid-19 victims which were temporarily stored in the church of San Giuseppe in Seriate, Bergamo, at the height of the pandemic in late March. Photo: AFP

Bergamo prosecutors are conducting a wide-ranging investigation into the health crisis. Local families blame tardiness in enforcing a red zone, as well as years of cuts to healthcare across the northern Lombardy region.

Cristina Longhini, a 39-year old pharmacist, lost her father Claudio, 65. Although he was very sick, the emergency services initially refused to admit him to hospital unless he was having trouble breathing, she said.

Once he was eventually taken to a Covid-19 hospital in Bergamo, there were no beds free in intensive care. Longhini says the family was asked to try to find an intensive bed somewhere else — which they desperately tried, and failed, to do.

'No-one has apologised'

“They forgot to call us to say he had passed away,” Longhini told AFP.

“I went to identify his body, he was almost unrecognisable. His mouth was open, his eyes bulging, with tears of blood”.

“They gave me his personal belongings in a bin bag, including his bloody clothes, which were contaminated,” she said.

With the local cemeteries overflowing, his coffin was carted off by army trucks along with dozens of others. The family only found out where he had been taken when they received a bill for his cremation some 200 kilometres (125 miles) away, she said.

Army trucks transporting the dead out of the overwhelmed Lombardy region for cremation at the height of the pandemic in late March. Photo: AFP

Longhini said she was filing a complaint because “we don't think the crisis was handled correctly, no-one's taking responsibility, and no-one has apologised”.

While in other countries legal action is being taken against specific entities — citizens against the government in France, doctors against theirs in Zimbabwe — the Italian complaints are against “persons unknown”.

“We are submitting them to see whether laws have been broken, and will evaluate the next steps after that,” Fusco said.

Another 150 complaints were being prepared, he said.

'We were abandoned'

The Facebook page “Truth and Justice for COVID-19 victims” currently has over 55,000 members.

Diego Federici, 35, who lost both his parents to the virus in the space of four days, said: “we don't want compensation. No sum of money could give me my parents back.

“We want to make sure those who are responsible pay, and ensure something like this can never happen again.”

Laura Cappella, 57, sobbed as she described her father dying alone after overstretched doctors failed to even give him a CT scan.

“I didn't get to say goodbye,” she said.

“We were abandoned, and still feel abandoned”.

Members of the “Noi Denunceremo” (We will report) committee outside the Bergamo's prosecutor building on June 10th. Photo: AFP



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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.”