‘Sorry mum’: Italian billboard apology highlights burial crisis

An Italian man has posted a message to his late mother on giant billboards around Rome in a bid to shame the authorities into providing burial plots for the city's dead.

'Sorry mum': Italian billboard apology highlights burial crisis
One of the bullboards i central Rome aimed at highlighting the burial crisis. Photo: ALBERTO PIZZOLI/AFP

“Mum, I’m sorry I’ve not been able to have you buried yet,” reads the message, on nine-by-seven-metre billboards around the city which, like the rest of Italy, is still battling the coronavirus pandemic.

Oberdan Zuccaroli put them up both as a tribute to his late mother and to draw attention to the burial crisis, which he says is “affecting lots of people”.

READ ALSO: More people died in Italy in 2020 than in any year since World War II

Rome’s Prima Porta cemetery “is no longer doing burials, there are hundreds of coffins waiting”, Zuccaroli told the Corriere della Sera newspaper.

“I don’t know why, but they stay there for months.”

Zuccaroli, who runs a billboards firm and plans to put up another 250 posters, said his mother died on March 8th, aged 85, of a heart attack.

But she has yet to be buried, and the same applies to his aunt, who died on January 9th of another non-virus related condition.

One of the boards in Rome, reading “Sorry mum that I still can’t get you buried”. Photo: ALBERTO PIZZOLI/AFP

Il Messaggero also reported Wednesday that the Prima Porta cemetery this week stopped accepting coffins for cremations.

AMA, the city hall agency that manages cemeteries in the Italian capital, issued a statement Monday insisting the situation was under control and that efforts were continuing to free up burial spaces.

It had been confronted with a 30-percent increase in deaths, year-on-year, during the October 2020-March 2021 period, it said.

Italian army trucks transporting the coffins of victims of Covid-19 from the city of Bergamo to crematoriums in other regions on March 26th, 2020. Photo: Miguel Medina/AFP

Deaths have surged all over Italy due to the pandemic. According to official statistics, the coronavirus has killed more than 115,500 people.

In the early stages of the crisis, the northern city of Bergamo had to call in the army for help when it could no longer bury or cremate its dead.

Pictures of the lines of coffin-laden military trucks taking coffins from Bergamo to other towns became one of the symbols of the pandemic in Italy and beyond.

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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.”