Italy marks the 2nd anniversary of the haunting COVID-19 milestone
Italy marks the 2nd anniversary of the haunting COVID-19 milestone

Italy marks the 2nd anniversary of the haunting COVID-19 milestone

Italy marks the second anniversary of a tragic milestone for the coronavirus pandemic

ROME – Italy marked the second anniversary of a tragic coronavirus pandemic on Friday: the day a convoy of army trucks had to transport the dead out of hard-hit Bergamo because the city’s cemeteries and crematoria were full.

Prime Minister Mario Draghi opened a press conference on Friday with the leaders of Spain, Portugal and Greece, recalling that it was Italy’s official day of remembrance for COVID-19 victims. The Ministry of Health urged the Italians to keep a minute’s silence, President Sergio Mattarella paid tribute to the dead, and the city of Bergamo held a memorial service at its living memorial: a park with newly planted trees.

“We bow to the memory of the victims,” ​​Mattarella said in his tribute. “The whole international community shares the pain of families.”

Italy became the epicenter of the outbreak in Europe after the first locally transmitted case was confirmed in late February 2020 in the Lombard town of Codogno. But nearby Bergamo quickly became the hardest hit province in the hardest hit region. By the end of March 2020, Bergamo had recorded a 571% increase in deaths compared to the five-year monthly average, the largest increase in Italy and one of the largest local increases in mortality in Europe.

Footage of the army convoy winding its way through Bergamo’s roads on March 18, 2020 with the coffin of the dead is still one of the most eerie and iconic images of the pandemic, early evidence of the large number the first weeks of the eruption had in the city northeast of Milan.

The anniversary of the convoy comes as Italy begins to phase out its antivirus restrictions. Draghi and Health Minister Roberto Speranza announced on Thursday that many vaccination requirements in the workplace, quarantine rules and mask mandates would be eased in the coming weeks.

Italy, which has registered more than 157,000 official COVID deaths, has fully vaccinated 89.7% of its population over 12 years of age.

At the Bergamo Memorial on Friday, the President of the Lower House of Parliament, Roberto Fico, said that the aim of the anniversary ceremony was to honor the dead, but also to ensure that Italy is better prepared for the next pandemic.

“We have to do this to remember those who died in an active way,” he said.

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Follow all AP stories about the pandemic at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic.

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