Covid-19: Italy divided over reopening stadiums

Italian health expert urges caution amid talks of reopening stadiums to increasing numbers of fans.

Italy's leaders are divided over plans by sports minister Vincenzo Spadafora to gradually reopen the country's stadiums to up to 25 per cent of spectators, with a top health expert urging "great caution," reports Italian news agency ANSA.

Franco Locatelli, head of the Higher Health Council (CSS) and member of a committee advising the government on its covid-19 response, warned on 25 September of "potential risks that must not be underestimated."

The warning follows a conference among Italy's regional governors in relation to the reopening of soccer stadiums and other major sports facilities to the public, with the majority in favour of admitting increased numbers of spectators.

However the plan to allow more fans to attend sporting events and football matches, which until last weekend were played behind closed doors, coincides with rising cases of covid-19 in Italy.

The most prominent regional president to declare his opposition to the plan is Nicola Zingaretti, governor of Lazio and leader of the centre-left Partito Democratico (PD), the coalition partner of premier Giuseppe Conte.

Zingaretti underlined his stance by signing an order limiting the number of fans attending two major upcoming matches in Rome's Olympic Stadium (Roma-Juventus on 27 September and Lazio-Inter on 4 October) to a maximum of 1,000.

Italy's health minister Roberto Speranza is also on the side of caution, stating: "School is an absolute priority. I don't think - I say this with all respect and as a great sports fan - that stadiums have the same priority."

Proposals from the regions will be examined next week by the government's technical scientific committee, whose coordinator told Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera recently that the idea of opening stadiums to more than 1,000 people was "madness".

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