“I felt humiliated and offended. I could not leave the house even though I had committed no crime,” Bocelli said.
The 61-year-old also said that he admitted to violating the lockdown rules, as he did “not think it was right or healthy to stay home at my age,” Italian media reports
He added that he doesn't believe the pandemic was as bad as the government made it seem – as he does not personally knowing anyone admitted to intensive care with the disease.
“So what was all this sense of gravity for?” he said.
His comments came at a Senate conference
attended by opposition politicians including Matteo Salvini, the leader of the far-right League party who has attacked the government of Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte over the handling of the coronavrius crisis and repeatedly criticised lockdown rules.
Bocelli also encouraged others to break the continued mask-wearing and social distancing rules, saying: “Let's refuse to follow this rule.”
“Let's read books, move around, get to know each other, talk, dialogue.”
In Italy, where more then 35,000 people have died
due to Covid-19 according to offical data, precautionary measures remain in place. The government warns that while the worst of the crisis now seems to be over
, the virus has not disappeared and people must remain cautious.
Bocelli's remarks came as a surprise as the tenor had become a symbol of national unity at the height of the lockdown, when he sang in an empty Milan cathedral
on Easter Sunday in a live-streamed solo performance called Music for Hope.
Massimo Galli, head of the Infectious Diseases Unit at the Luigi Sacco Hospital in Milan, told Italian news agency ANSA that the conference sent an “inadequate, dangerous” message with “no scientific basis.”
The comments caused outrage on social media in Italy among scientific experts, celebrities and members of the public alike.
Nino Cartabellotta, head of the Gimbe evidence-based medical research foundation, slammed both the statement and the conference, saying: “Minister of Health Speranza and President Conte reaffirm social distancing and the use of masks. But the protection of the right to health is now debased by mere political opposition.”
He also tweeted agreement with Italian rapper Fedez, who wrote: “If you don't know anyone who has been in intensive care and you'd like to instill the idea that the pandemic was science fiction, I introduce a friend of mine who had a lung transplant at 18 years old because of Covid. Staying quiet every now and then doesn't hurt, huh?”
Other social media users posted photos of relatives who had died from Covid-19 and whose funerals they had not been able to attend, venting their anger at suggestions the pandemic was an “invention”.
On Tuesday morning, the hashtag #BocelliVergognati (Bocelli be ashamed of yourself) was trending on Italian Twitter.
Italy's strict nationwide lockdown was announced on March 9th and lasted almost three months before being gradually eased.