SHARE
COPY LINK

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.

Live concert at the Circus Maximus in Rome, Italy
Italian experts are calling for major live events to be postponed in order to curb the rising number of Covid infections. Photo by Andreas SOLARO / AFP

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].”

Member comments

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

COVID-19 STATS

Italy’s emergency rooms ‘pushed to limits’ by Covid and flu cases

Doctors have warned that Covid along with a "very rapid" rise in seasonal flu cases means Italy's emergency rooms risk being overwhelmed over the holidays.

Italy's emergency rooms 'pushed to limits' by Covid and flu cases

Fabio De Iaco, president of the Italian Society of Emergency and Urgent Medicine (Simeu), sounded the alarm on Monday, saying hospital admissions have risen 50 percent since September.

“Flu and Covid are pushing emergency rooms to their limit,” said De Iaco, adding that he fears the problem “can only get worse in the coming weeks.”

Hospitals expect the peak to arrive during the holidays, “when we will have more elderly patients but also more staff off sick.”

The problem is mainly down to a sharp spike in seasonal flu cases, he said. This year’s flu wave began three weeks ago, around a month ahead of usual annual trends.

“We see numbers that pre-pandemic were reached in mid-January,” says De Iaco. 

“Children began to arrive in the emergency room first, but now the age of patients is rising and will increase during the holidays, when viruses are typically passed between generations.”

Silvestro Scotti, general secretary of the Italian Federation of General Practitioners (Fimmg), told news outlets that Italy’s current seasonal flu case numbers are at their highest in 15 years.

READ ALSO: When, where and how to get the flu vaccine in Italy

“Every week a family doctor has about 100 patients who fall ill, which translates into at least two to three calls per week for each one, plus visits and a lot of bureaucracy. We’re practically going crazy,” he said.

At the same time, hospitals are dealing with an influx of Covid patients. While the latest data from the Gimbe health think tank shows a slight decrease in new case numbers, both hospitalisations and intensive care admissions are up.

According to De Iaco, the symptoms of this flu variant (that many Italian outlets are calling the influenza australiana or the ‘Australian flu’) are similar to those for Covid, including a high fever and respiratory difficulties.

This can make it hard for doctors to immediately distinguish between the two, leading to Covid and flu patients mixing in the wards.

“Many arrive with flu symptoms in the emergency room and we discover that it is Covid only at the time of the test,” says De Iaco.

“And for those who test positive we have difficulty finding staff and a place for their isolation.” 

He encouraged patients to stay at home and avoid going to the emergency room unless they were particularly vulnerable, warning that they “face long waits and risk becoming infected with other viruses.”

Doctors are appealing for those who are eligible to get vaccinated against the flu to avoid inundating hospitals.

“It is vital that those at risk choose to get vaccinated as soon as possible, otherwise we risk living through some very serious months,” said Fimmg secretary Scotti.

SHOW COMMENTS