Surge in COVID-19 infection in Italy linked to Euro 2020

Daily new caseloads of confirmed COVID-19 infections are surging in Italy, linking it to the national team’s win in the Euro 2020 as thousands of fans jammed Rome’s streets on July 12 to cheer an unauthorized open-topped bus tour by Italy’s national team. Italy won the European Championship for the first time since 1968 as goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma saved two penalties against England.

The number of newly confirmed cases in the Lazio region, including Rome, went high in the last three days. The region had the highest daily new caseload over the weekend. Dr. Franco Locatelli, a pediatric specialist who advises Italy’s government on anti-pandemic health measures, told an Italian news agency in an interview Sunday that “the gatherings and the crowd favored the viral circulation.”

According to Matteo Piantedosi, the head of Rome’s public safety authority, the team’s bus parade through the city following their Euro 2020 triumph “was not authorized” by the authorities.  “We had denied permission to celebrate Italy’s victory in the European Championships on the open bus, but the pact was not respected,” Piantedosi said. 

Piantedosi added that police had “no choice” but to let the parade go ahead after players Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci insisted on it. To avoid public disorder, Piantedosi gave a green light to the authorities to let the tour proceed. “At that point we had no choice but to acknowledge the situation and handle it in the best way we could,” he said.

Earlier, Piantedosi said the Italian football federation (FIGC) initially agreed to hold a “controlled” ceremony in Rome’s central Piazza del Popolo instead of the parade. “Footage shows that police were virtually the only ones [in the crowd] wearing masks,” said Piantedosi. The World Health Organization (WHO) warned earlier this month that crowds and gatherings connected to football matches will fuel a new rise in cases across Europe this summer.

Italy’s health minister Roberto Speranza also voiced concerns about the consequences of people gathering to watch sporting events. He said the European football championship win was “a great joy after terrible months,” however “even in these moments of national pride we can’t forget that our ‘game’ to defeat COVID is not yet won.”

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