SHARE
COPY LINK

SICILY

Officials accused of fiddling Sicily’s coronavirus data to keep region out of red zone

Sicily's top health official resigned on Tuesday amid an investigation into whether regional coronavirus figures were manipulated to cover up rising infection rates and deaths.

Officials accused of fiddling Sicily's coronavirus data to keep region out of red zone
Streets in Trapani, Sicily. Photo: Andreas Solaro/AFP

Ruggero Razza, the regional councillor in charge of health, denied wrongdoing but said he was stepping down to avoid further controversy after being targeted in an investigation that has also seen three arrests.

Italy’s regional governments send daily data on infection rates and deaths among other information to the national Health Ministry, which uses the numbers to decide what restrictions to impose — measures that have a huge economic impact.

EXPLAINED:

Any region with a weekly incidence rate of more than 250 new cases per 100,000 residents automatically becomes a high-risk ‘red zone’, with restaurants and most shops ordered to close.

According to Italian newspapers, Razza was caught on a phone wire tap discussing numbers of deaths with a local health official, and said: “Let’s spread them around a bit.”

The official on the call was among those arrested in the probe, which reportedly alleges that reports of deaths and new cases were spread out over time to make the situation look better than it really was.

“I would like to reiterate that in Sicily, the epidemic has always been carefully monitored,” Razza said. “We did not need to hide the number of infected people or lower the epidemiological impact because we have ourselves often anticipated the decisions of Rome and adopted stricter measures.”

Sicily is currently an orange zone, with marginally looser restrictions than Italy’s red zones.

Palermo mayor Leoluca Orlando said in a statement that the Sicilian capital would be a civil party in any legal proceedings, given the impact coronavirus measures have had on the area.

Most of Italy is currently under tough restrictions to combat a third wave of coronavirus infections. The pandemic has so far left more than 108,000 people dead in Italy, according to the official health ministry toll.

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.

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.”

SHOW COMMENTS