Rome, 23 December 2020 (dpa/MIA) – A group representing Italian victims of the Covid-19 pandemic is going to sue regional and national authorities, seeking 100 million euros (122 million dollars) in damages.
In a statement, Noi Denunceremo (We will press charges) said it would file the lawsuit on Wednesday on behalf of around 500 people who lost their loved ones.
“We will ask from authorities an average compensation of 200,000 euros per person, for a total outlay of around 100 million euros,” the group said.
The suit is addressed against Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, Health Minister Roberto Speranza and Lombardy Regional President Attilio Fontana.
Noi Denunceremo President Luca Fusco called it a “Christmas present for those who should have acted [against the pandemic] and did not act.”
Italy is one of the countries worst hit by the coronavirus. With a population of 60 million, it has recorded nearly 70,000 deaths linked to Covid-19, more than any other country in Europe.
“Noi Denunceremo” argues that official negligence contributed to the death toll. The group is based in Bergamo, the northern province that was the epicentre of the first wave of the virus in March and April.
In the past months, it filed dozens of criminal complaints to Bergamo prosecutors, urging them to investigate alleged failures in the handling of the pandemic.
In June, Bergamo prosecutors travelled to Rome to question Conte, Speranza and Interior Minister Luciana Lamorgese. They have so far not pressed any charges.
Last week, the prosecutors heard from Francesco Zambon, a World Health Organization (WHO) official who helped draft a report that criticized Italy’s early response to the health crisis.
The WHO withdrew it hours after its publication in May. Zambon has called this a cover-up. The WHO has said the document was pulled due to “factual inaccuracies,” but refused to detail them.
The report noted that Italy had an outdated pandemic preparedness plan, dating back to 2006, and characterized Italian hospitals’ initial actions as “improvised, chaotic and creative.”
Noi Denunceremo said its lawsuit also faulted national and regional authorities for failing to seal off the towns of Alzano Lombardo and Nembro, two early virus clusters near Bergamo.
In addition, the group cited the rushed reopening of the emergency room of Alzano Lombardo’s hospital, after the first Covid-19 cases were diagnosed there, as having contributed to the pandemic.
On Christmas Day, Italy will have “70,000 empty chairs,” Fusco said, referring to the fallen from the pandemic. “With adequate planning, as requested again and again by the EU and the WHO, we’re sure there would have been a lot less.