Lawyers reported that Rome prosecutors have requested a judge to officially end an inquiry into Italian and U.N. health authorities regarding Italy’s actions in response to COVID-19 in 2020, citing lack of evidence of any wrongdoing.
The prosecutors in Rome, Claudia Terracina and Paolo Ielo, have requested to close the investigation that gained attention due to the high number of cases in Italy as the first epicenter of the pandemic in Europe. It is unlikely that the judge will overturn this request.
The prosecution had already concluded their investigation and chose not to press charges against three former health ministers in Italy. However, on Thursday, they requested for the case against nine other officials, including Dr. Ranieri Guerra, a former high-ranking member of the World Health Organization, to be closed, according to his lawyer Roberto De Vita.
Initially, the inquiry centered on whether the delay in enacting lockdown measures in the heavily affected city of Bergamo had an impact on the number of casualties. However, it was later broadened to also consider if Italy’s overall readiness prior to the crisis was a factor.
There was a dispute surrounding a WHO report on Italy’s reaction, which was released by the U.N. health organization in May 2020, then removed the following day and never re-released.
Francesco Zambon, a former official of the World Health Organization, proposed that the report was suppressed in order to avoid criticism of the Italian government for not updating their pandemic preparedness plan. The WHO stated that the report was removed due to errors and premature publication.
Prior to 2017, Guerra served as the leader of the prevention department in the Italian health ministry and later acted as a representative for the WHO in Italy during the pandemic. De Vita stated that prosecutors concluded that the plan for dealing with the pandemic was currently being revised.
He expressed appreciation for the decision to file away the case, stating that it should have been resolved two years ago when Guerra presented evidence to prosecutors proving his innocence.
Guerra stated that the controversy had significantly damaged his reputation and criticized those who accused him of failing to defend Italy.