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Italy launches probe into its handling of pandemic

Italy, which was the first western country to report a Covid-19 outbreak and which had the second highest death toll in Europe, after Britain, is to launch an investigation into its handling of the pandemic.

The decision has been hailed by relatives of people killed by the virus, but slammed by those who were in power at the time.

The commission will examine “the government’s actions and the measures adopted to prevent and address the Covid-19 epidemiological emergency”, reports The Guardian.

The inquiry was among the election campaign pledges of Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, who came to power in October 2022.

Victims’ families had protested against an inquiry proposal by the previous administration to narrow its scope by focusing only on the outbreak in China and with a cut-off date of 31 January 2020, thus avoiding the scramble by the Italian Government to contain rapidly rising infections and deaths in the weeks afterwards.

Consuelo Locati, a lawyer representing hundreds of families who brought legal proceedings against former leaders, said: “The families were the first to ask for a commission and so for us this is a great victory. The commission is important because it has the task, at least on paper, to analyse what went wrong and the errors committed, so as not to repeat the massacre.”

The commission will investigate the actions of individuals including Giuseppe Conte, the former Prime Minister, Roberto Speranza, the former Health Minister, and Attilio Fontana, the President of Lombardy.

Last June, prosecutors in Bergamo, the Lombardy province heavily hit by Covid-19 at the start of the pandemic, shelved an investigation into Conte and Speranza’s management of the emergency after they found no evidence connecting the deaths to their failure to swiftly adopt measures to contain the escalating virus.

Italy’s first coronavirus case was confirmed in Codogno in southern Lombardy on 21 February 2020. Two days later, an outbreak occurred at the hospital in Alzano Lombardo, a town in Bergamo.

However, unlike Codogno, where quarantine measures were implemented immediately along with nine other towns in Lombardy and one in Veneto, Bergamo went into lockdown with the entire Lombardy region two weeks later.

A case brought by relatives of the deceased at Rome’s civil court is ongoing. The court is examining the same evidence that Bergamo prosecutors did, including the alleged absence of an updated national pandemic plan.

“The difference with the Rome case is that there will definitely be a sentence, which will either go in our favour or not,” said Locati, whose father was among those who died early in the pandemic.


The Guardian article – Italy announces inquiry into its handling of Covid-19 pandemic (Open access)


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