Coronavirus data fraud in Sicily, judge talks about 'vicious political plan'

Coronavirus data fraud in Sicily, judge talks about ‘vicious political plan’

An Italian police officer watches motorists leaving the city amid the second wave of the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic in Milan.Photo of the Environmental Protection Agency

“Let us maim the dead a little bit over the course of the days,” said the Sicilian health advisor in the fall. One of his officials suggested in mid-March, “I will be among 400 new infections in Palermo.” “Let’s add a thousand tests.” The Italian police and media intercepted the talks.

The goal of the Sicilians was clear: they wanted to prevent their island from becoming a “red zone” again. Italy has been operating in a regional system since the fall. Based on 21 indicators, each of the Italian RIVM regions is assigned a color code: yellow (catering is open during the day), orange (light lock) or red (strict close). The regions themselves are responsible for transmitting the data to the National Institutes of Health in Rome.

Since the system was introduced, there has been tension around Corona rules between the national government and regional authorities. Health Minister Roberto Speranza favors the cautious streak, while many district governors are putting pressure on them to relax.

It is also not the first time that something has gone wrong with providing data. In January, there were riots because the affected Lombardy region was closed for two weeks due to a registration error. A committed young mayor, himself an engineer, saw that the numbers in her municipality were suddenly rising and she discovered the mistake.

Italian Health Minister Roberto Speranza during inquiry time in Rome.  Photo of the Environmental Protection Agency
Italian Health Minister Roberto Speranza during inquiry time in Rome.Photo of the Environmental Protection Agency

Upside down world

After that, Lombardy was allowed to partially open its doors for a few weeks, but the error is estimated to have cost several million euros. So the world was upside down in Sicily and the corona numbers were very low. Not through error, but through intentional deception, the island remained on the right side of the boundary between orange and red.

The fraud was discovered by chance. Police eavesdropped the provincial health department, tracking down the fraud lab. That company would have returned hundreds of negative tests when they should have been positive.

So instead, the police faced a bigger scandal, which is unlikely to end with three suspects. The judge has already announced investigations of other employees involved.

Health advisor Ruggiero Reza himself was not arrested, but he immediately resigned on Tuesday and received a summons for questioning. The governor of the region remains unimpressed at present. According to the investigating judge, he was not aware of this “sinister political plan.”

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