Coronavirus: Italy gives ministers police guard in fear of COVID-19 related violence

Italy's Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte (L) and Italy's Public Education Minister Lucia Azzolina speak during a press conference on March 4, 2020. (AFP)

Italy on Wednesday placed a second government minister under police protection amid fears that officials could become the target of physical violence as social tensions rise over the handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

Police said that Italian education minister Lucia Azzolina has been given a police escort following threats against her.

Already on Monday, deputy health minister Pierpaolo Sileri was given police protection after receiving threats in connection with coronavirus aid.

And police were also asked Wednesday to guard the governor of the Lombardy region, Attilio Fontana, after he was slammed a “murderer” in graffiti in Milan and received threats on social media.

Lombardy in northern Italy was the region hit hardest by the pandemic, which has killed over 33,000 people, and Fontana has been heavily criticized in some quarters for failing to curb the spread of the virus.

Hospital employees wearing a protection mask and gear tend to a patient (C) at a temporary emergency structure at the Brescia hospital, Lombardy, on March 13, 2020. (AFP)

Hospital employees wearing a protection mask and gear tend to a patient (C) at a temporary emergency structure at the Brescia hospital, Lombardy, on March 13, 2020. (AFP)

Italy is also struggling to restart following an economically-crippling nationwide lockdown which lasted two and a half months.

“There’s a risk social tensions and exasperation could explode across the country,” Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio said.

Both ministers under police protection belong to the anti-establishment Five Stars Movement (M5S) which is part of Italy’s ruling coalition, while Fontana is a member of the far-right League party.

Fontana said he had not requested the escort and insisted it would in no way affect his work.

“Sadly we know that it’s only a small step between verbal and physical violence... We will keep up our guard,” Environment Minister Sergio Costa said.

“It’s very troubling that such a climate of hate and threats has been created around schools, healthcare and other sensitive and important issues,” he added.

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Last Update: Wednesday, 27 May 2020 KSA 22:05 - GMT 19:05
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