- Italian prosecutors from Bergamo, a city in the Lombardy province worst hit during the first wave of COVID, are investigating former PM Giuseppe Conte, former health minister Roberto Speranza, and 17 others under suspicion of 'aggravated culpable epidemic' and manslaughter related to their pandemic response.1
- The accusations into Conte, who was prime minister from 2018 to 2021 before heading the populist Five Star Movement party, wrap up prosecutors' three-year inquiry into Italy's pandemic response, alleging he underestimated the virus' contagiousness.2
- The inquiry scrutinized two issues: why small towns around Bergamo weren't locked down earlier, and why Italy's pandemic plan hadn't been updated since 2006.3
- Prosecutors note that, despite having been decreed in late February for around a dozen other nearby municipalities, the government didn't create a 'red zone' in two areas hit hardest by the outbreak, Nembro and Alzano Lombardo, by early March.4
- Other suspects include Lombardy Gov. Attilio Fontana and unnamed executives and officials from Italian national and regional public health bodies. Information relating to Conte and Speranza has reportedly been transferred to a separate court that deals with government officials.5
- The initial inquiry was driven by the relatives of those who died from COVID. During the first wave of COVID, Bergamo reported 6k excess deaths — 4k of which prosecutors allege could have been averted if quarantine had been immediately implemented.1
- Narrative A, as provided by Ansa.it. Italy's relaxed regional and national COVID responses may very well have led to thousands of excess deaths in the early days of the pandemic. For the good of the victims' families, their communities, and the nation as a whole, this prosecution must go forward, and the officials at fault should be held accountable.
- Narrative B, as provided by Bnn. Faced with an unprecedented pandemic, Conte was tasked with containing the virus and protecting the fragile economy without infringing on fundamental liberties, but still faced accusations of draconian COVID measures. In a puzzling change of course, he's now being investigated for not going far enough. Considering the political division in the country from mid-2020 through 2021 — and that still exists today — it would be foolish not to wonder if subsequent prosecutions are politically motivated.