Italy prosecutors to quiz PM on COVID-19 crisis

Prosecutors from northern Italy will question Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte on Friday after relatives of COVID-19 victims demanded an inquiry into alleged government negligence into the crisis.

The prosecutors have travelled to Rome from Bergamo, the city near Milan worst hit by coronavirus before the whole country was put under a lockdown in March.

Fifty legal complaints were filed on Thursday at the Bergamo prosecutor”s office by a citizens” group called ”Noi Denunceremo” (We Will Report).

The group consists of relatives of the coronavirus victims, who have said that two Lombardy towns – Alzano and Nembro – should have been declared “red zones” as soon as the outbreaks were detected there.

Lombardy was where the virus first started spreading in Europe and more than half the victims in Italy died in the region.

It is the first legal group action in Italy triggered by the pandemic.

Besides Conte, the prosecutors, who are aiming to determine if there are grounds for any charges of criminal negligence, will also question Italian Interior Minister Luciana Lamorgese and Health Minister Roberto Speranza on Friday.

Regarding the development, Conte said on Thursday: “I will conscientiously set out all the facts of which I have knowledge. I am not at all worried.

“All investigations are welcome. The citizens have the right to know and we have the right to reply.”

In a BBC interview in early April, Conte denied claims that he had underestimated the crisis. He said that if he had ordered a lockdown at the beginning, when the first virus clusters were detected, “people would have taken me for a madman”.

He dismissed the suggestion that Italy could have rapidly imposed a big lockdown.

As of Friday, Italy, one of the worst-hit countries in the world, has registered 236,142 COVID-19 cases with 34,167 deaths.

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