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Italy to investigate Covid pandemic management

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Italy will conduct an investigation into its management of the Covid pandemic, a move celebrated as “a great victory” by the families of those who lost their lives to the virus but criticised by former officials.

As the first Western nation to report an outbreak, Italy incurred the second-highest Covid-related death toll in Europe, surpassing 196,000 fatalities, second only to the UK.

The establishment of a commission to scrutinise “the government’s actions and the measures adopted to prevent and address the Covid-19 epidemiological emergency” gained approval in the lower house of parliament after receiving the green light in the senate.

The promise of a Covid-19 inquiry was a key component of Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni’s election campaign.

Previous inquiry proposal not popular

Previously, victims’ families had rallied against an inquiry proposal from the previous administration, a broad coalition led by Mario Draghi. This was due to efforts by the centre-left Democratic Party (PD) and the League, which governs the hard-hit Lombardy region, to limit the inquiry’s scope by focusing solely on the outbreak in China and setting a cutoff date of January 31, 2020. This approach neglected the Italian government’s efforts to contain the rapidly escalating infections and deaths in the subsequent weeks.

Consuelo Locati, a lawyer representing numerous families involved in legal proceedings against former leaders, said, “The families were the first to call for a commission, so for us, this is a significant victory.” Locati emphasised the importance of the commission in analysing past mistakes to prevent a recurrence of the tragic losses suffered.

The commission will delve into the actions of key figures including Giuseppe Conte, the former prime minister, Roberto Speranza, the former health minister, and Attilio Fontana, the president of Lombardy.

Conte, now leading the Five Star Movement, which was part of the governing coalition with the PD at the time. He criticised Meloni’s government for “cowardice” and accused it of using the inquiry as a political tool to target its predecessors. Meanwhile, Speranza asserted that the commission’s objective was not to enhance the healthcare system’s resilience but to vilify the former government.

Bergamo also shelved investigation

In June of the previous year, prosecutors in Bergamo shelved an investigation into Conte and Speranza’s management of the crisis, citing a lack of evidence linking the deaths to their failure to promptly implement measures.

The first confirmed coronavirus case in Italy emerged in Codogno, southern Lombardy, on February 21, 2020, with subsequent outbreaks occurring, notably at a hospital in Alzano Lombardo, Bergamo.

A case filed by relatives of the deceased in Rome’s civil court remains ongoing, examining similar evidence to that considered by Bergamo prosecutors, including alleged deficiencies in the national pandemic plan.

Italy ended its State of Emergency due to the covid pandemic on 31st March 2022.

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