Johnson suggested Tuesday that coronavirus infections were higher in Britain than in Italy or Germany because it was a “freedom-loving country” — a barb that sparked great offence in Rome.
Asked in parliament if “the reason Germany and Italy have far lower Covid rates than us” is because their contact tracing systems work better, he said there was “a very important difference… our country is a freedom-loving country”.
He claimed that made it very difficult to ask the British population uniformly to obey guidelines.
Asked about the comment, Mattarella said: “We Italians also love freedom, but we also care about seriousness”.
Italy was the first country outside China to face a major coronavirus outbreak, but has managed to keep infection rates relatively low compared to Spain, France and Britain.