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ITALY

Families of virus victims sue Italian government for €100 million

Around 500 relatives of coronavirus victims are suing the Italian state for 100 million euros, alleging a litany of failures in the early stages of the pandemic, campaigners said Wednesday December 23.

Families of virus victims sue Italian government for €100 million
Image: Filippo Monteforte / AFP

The action is being driven by the group “Noi Denunceremo” (We Will Denounce), which has already filed around 300 complaints with prosecutors in Bergamo, the city in the northern Lombardy region that suffered most from the first wave of the virus.

The legal action targets Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, Health Minister Roberto Speranza and the president of the Lombardy region, Attilio Fontana, the group said in a statement.

Italy was the first country outside China to suffer a major outbreak of coronavirus and remains one of the worst hit, with almost 70,000 reported deaths so far.

The lawsuit alleges “serious omissions” by the Lombardy and central governments, starting with a decision to reopen the Alzano hospital on February 23, after it was shut following the detection of the first Covid-19 cases.

The statement also cited a “severe delay” in closing off the infected towns of Alzano and Nembro, as well as a lack of up-to-date pandemic plans at both local and regional levels.

The Italian government imposed a national lockdown on March 10, but prosecutors in Lombardy are investigating whether local action should have been taken earlier. Regional leaders and Conte's government blame each other. 

“This proceeding is to be considered a Christmas gift to those who should have done what they were supposed to do and did not do, while in Italy on December 25, there will be 70,000 empty chairs,” said Noi Denunceremo president Luca Fusco.

“With proper planning, as requested over and over again by the European Union and World Health Organization, we are sure there would have been many fewer.”

Half of the coronavirus deaths recorded in Italy have been since mid-July, when infections reached their lowest point, which means that the second wave looks set to be least as deadly as the first.

The government declined to impose another full lockdown after infection rates rose again in October, instead ordering targeted restrictions in certain regions.

Further nationwide measures will also be imposed over the Christmas and New Year holidays.

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TRAVEL NEWS

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.”

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