The relatives of people killed by coronavirus in Italy are demanding justice as anger mounts over alleged errors made by authorities at the start of the outbreak.
The virus has so far claimed 25,085 lives in Italy, and with the daily death rate still high, the painful stories behind the numbers are starting to emerge as relatives come together to work out a course of action.
More than 45,000 people have joined NOI Denunceremo (We will report), a Facebook group created by Luca Fusco, whose father died of Covid-19 in Bergamo, the Lombardy province worst-hit by the virus, as a way to gather testimony for magistrates.
“We do not want financial compensation,” said Fusco. “Our main objective is to have justice from a criminal perspective, so if someone is responsible, we want them to be charged and brought to trial.”
The aim of the group is not to target health workers, but people in leadership positions who may have underestimated the virus, added Fusco.
“The health workers are victims as much as those who have died,” he said. “But as the healthcare system in Italy is decentralised, it would have been those who lead the regions who set the guidelines for hospitals. So if a magistrate decides there is a case, then the responsibility would be at regional level.”
Several official investigations are already under way, including one into a hospital in Alzano Lombardo, a town in Bergamo where the symptoms were initially not recognised, allowing it to spread within the hospital and beyond.
Prosecutors across the Lombardy region are also investigating possible crimes of negligence and multiple manslaughter following hundreds of deaths in residential homes. Care-home deaths are not recorded in the official statistics, nor are many people who have died at home but were not tested for Covid-19.
Meanwhile, doctors’ associations and unions have said they are planning legal action over the deaths of 144 medical workers to date, mostly due to the lack of protective equipment at the beginning of the emergency.
Robert Lingard, an Italian who lives in London, filed a dossier with the prosecutor of Brescia, another Lombardy province severely affected by coronavirus, after two of his relatives died; three others were in intensive care.
He has asked the prosecutor to establish whether campaigns in Milan and Bergamo encouraging people to carry on as normal, such as going to bars and restaurants or shopping, during the early stage of the outbreak constitute criminal negligence.
“Italian public authorities were aware of the aggressiveness of the virus in terms of its spread and the death rate associated with it, given the data coming from China, Singapore and South Korea,” said Lingard. “And they were also aware of the large-scale measures of containment and prevention they had to put in place. However, in spite of this evidence, authorities in Milan and Bergamo seemed to act in denial, without any sense of prudence applied to public health.”
The testimonies being shared on NOI Denunceremo share similarities such as the virus being mistaken for ordinary flu and people at home suffering from a fever advised to take paracetamol. Many have lost both of their parents as a result of Covid-19.