Families of Covid victims in Italy take government to court

ROME — Five hundred families of coronavirus victims are taking legal action against Italy’s regional and national governments, whom they deem responsible for a series of omissions, mistakes and delays during the first wave of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The families say the national government and regional authorities in the hard-hit Lombardy region were unprepared for the crisis as the virus hit and did not take actions that could have prevented a national lockdown and subsequent economic damage, as well as loss of life.

Italy became one of the early epicenters of the pandemic, with its health care system pushed to the breaking point. Nearly 70,000 people died from coronavirus in Italy so far, the highest fatality count in Europe.

Members of Noi Denunceremo, or We Will Denounce, group arrive at court in Bergamo, Italy on July 13.Claudio Furlan / AP file

“These complaints are our Christmas present to those who should have done what they were supposed to do and did not do while in Italy, on December 25, there will be 70,000 empty chairs,” Luca Fusco, president of coronavirus advocacy group Noi Denunceremo, or We Will Denounce, that has launched the lawsuit, said in a statement.

“With proper planning, as requested over and over again by the E.U. and WHO, we are sure there would have been many fewer,” Fusco added.

The lawsuit names Italy’s Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, president of Lombardy region Attilio Fontana and health minister Roberto Speranza.

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Lawyers representing the committee are asking for the monetary compensation of about $315,000 for each family for a total of more than $120 million.

Representatives for Conte, Fontana and Speranza were not immediately available for comment.