Covid-19: Anger in Italy after opera star Andrea Bocelli urges people to defy rules

Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli attacked the government on Monday, saying he was "humiliated and offended" by the coronavirus lockdown and urging people to disobey rules still in place.

Covid-19: Anger in Italy after opera star Andrea Bocelli urges people to defy rules
Tenor Andrea Bocelli became a symbol of national unity during Italy's three-month lockdown, which he heavily criticised on Monday. Photo: AFP
“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.


Member comments

  1. Perhaps Mr. Bocelli should spend some time with the medical workers who were under so much pressure during the height of the pandemic and lost numerous
    colleagues. There is so much ignorance out there and when those who have a voice cast doubt, it makes it so much more difficult to get on top of COVID-19.

  2. Bocelli isn’t looking the sharpest tool in the shed here. He doesn’t realise the reason he doesn’t know anyone affected is because Italy, Europe and practically the entire planet went into lockdown. We have relatively “low” numbers of dead so far because enough people all over the world were willing to be grown ups and take coronavirus seriously. No thanks to people like him.

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Covid-19: Are Italian live events at risk of being postponed?

As the infection rate rises sharply across the country, Italian virologists are calling for concerts and festivals to be rescheduled.

Covid-19: Are Italian live events at risk of being postponed?

Italy has seen a large increase in the number of Covid-19 cases in recent days, so much so that a number of virologists across the country are now urging the government to postpone major live events in a bid to curb infections. 

According to a new report by Italy’s independent health watchdog, the Gimbe Foundation, 595,349 new cases were recorded in the week from June 29th to July 5th; a worrying 55 percent increase on the previous week. 

In the same time span, the country also registered a 32.8 percent rise in the number of hospitalised patients, which went from 6,035 to 8,003.  

The latest Covid wave, which is being driven by the highly contagious Omicron 5 variant, is a “real cause for concern”, especially in terms of a “potential patient overload”, said Nino Cartabellotta, president of the Gimbe Foundation. 

As Italian cities prepare to host a packed calendar of concerts and festivals this summer, health experts are questioning whether such events should actually take place given the high risk of transmission associated with mass gatherings.

READ ALSO: What tourists in Italy need to know if they get Covid-19

“Rescheduling these types of events would be the best thing to do right now,” said Massimo Ciccozzi, Director of Epidemiology at Campus Bio-Medico University of Rome. 

The summer wave is expected to peak in mid-July but, Ciccozzi warns, the upcoming live events might “delay [the peak] until the end of July or even beyond” and extend the infection curve.

Antonello Maruotti, Professor of Statistics at LUMSA University of Rome, recently shared Ciccozzi’s concerns, saying that live events as big as Maneskin’s scheduled Rome concert are “definitely not a good idea”. 

The Italian rock band are slated to perform at the Circus Maximus on Saturday, July 9th but the expected turnout – over 70,000 fans are set to attend the event – has raised objections from an array of Italian doctors, with some warning that the concert might cause as many as 20,000 new cases.

If it were to materialise, the prospected scenario would significantly aggravate Lazio’s present medical predicament as there are currently over 186,000 Covid cases in the region (nearly 800 patients are receiving treatment in local hospitals). 

Italian rock band Maneskin performing in Turin

Italian rock band Maneskin are expected to perform at the Circus Maximus in Rome on Saturday, July 9th. Photo by Marco BERTORELLO / AFP

But, despite pleas to postpone the event, it is likely that Maneskin’s concert will take place as scheduled.

Alessandro Onorato, Rome’s Tourism Councillor, said that rescheduling is “out of question” and that “all recommendations from the local medical authorities will be adopted” with the help of the event’s organisers and staff on the ground.

At the time of writing, there is also no indication that the Italian government will consider postponing other major live events scheduled to take place in the coming weeks, though the situation is evolving rapidly and a U-turn on previous dispositions can’t be ruled out.

READ ALSO: At a glance: What are the Covid-19 rules in Italy now?

On this note, it is worth mentioning that Italy has now scrapped all of its former Covid measures except the requirement to wear FFP2 face masks on public transport (though not on planes) and in healthcare settings.

The use of face coverings is, however, still recommended in all crowded areas, including outdoors – exactly the point that leading Italian doctors are stressing in the hope that live events will not lead to large-scale infection.

Antonio Magi, President of Rome’s OMCEO (College of Doctors, Surgeons and Dentists), said: “Our advice is to wear FFP2 masks […] in high-risk situations.”

“I hope that young people will heed our recommendations and think about the health risks that their parents or grandparents might be exposed to after the event [they attend].”