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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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COVID-19

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].”

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