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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Anti-vaxxer assaults Covid-era Italian PM Conte at rally

An anti-vax campaigner on Friday assaulted Italy's former premier Giuseppe Conte, who imposed strict restrictions at the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, his political party said.

Anti-vaxxer assaults Covid-era Italian PM Conte at rally

Conte was “attacked by an anti-vaxxer in Massa”, a small Tuscan city where he was attending an election rally, his opposition party the Five Star Movement wrote on Facebook.

News agency Ansa said the man struck Conte in the face, blaming him for the lockdown policies imposed during the pandemic and other measures. Police officers later took him away.

As well as his own party, Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni expressed her “solidarity” with Conte.

“Any form of violence must be condemned without hesitation,” Meloni said in a statement. “Dissent must be civil and respectful of people and political groups.”

Prime minister from June 2018 to February 2021, Conte was the head of government when the Covid-19 outbreak suddenly struck northern Italy in February 2020.

Italy was the first country outside China to suffer a major outbreak of Covid-19.

The virus has killed nearly 190,000 people in Italy to date, according to the health ministry.

Conte imposed stringent coronavirus restrictions in the early phase of the pandemic, including an economically crippling shutdown and the mandating of face masks in public.

His successor as prime minister, Mario Draghi, imposed a compulsory coronavirus health pass in September 2021 tied to the Covid-19 vaccine.

Conte’s early decisions during the breakout, including one not to impose “red zones” in two hard-hit areas, are the subject of an ongoing judicial inquiry.

Investigating magistrates suspect that Conte and his government underestimated the contagiousness of Covid-19 even though available data showed that cases were spreading rapidly.