Andrea Bocelli criticised for ‘dangerous’ remarks on Italy’s coronavirus lockdown

29 July 2020, 10:36 | Updated: 30 July 2020, 12:09

Andrea Bocelli criticised for saying Italy's lockdown was overblown
Andrea Bocelli criticised for saying Italy's lockdown was overblown. Picture: Getty

By Maddy Shaw Roberts

The tenor encouraged Italians to ‘refuse’ to follow lockdown and social distancing rules, and said he knew no one who had been admitted to intensive care.

Andrea Bocelli has been strongly criticised for publicly saying he flouted Italy’s lockdown, and encouraging other Italians to ‘refuse’ to follow social distancing rules.

The famed Italian tenor was speaking at a conference in the Senate, attended by leader of the far-right League party Matteo Salvini, when he referred to the “so-called pandemic”, which has claimed over 35,000 people in Italy.

He said: “I felt humiliated and offended as a citizen when I was forbidden to leave the house. I must also confess, and I do it here publicly, that in some cases I have also voluntarily disobeyed this ban because it did not seem right or healthy.

“I am of a certain age and I need sun and vitamin D.”

His words have been condemned by activist group Noi Denunceremo, or We Will Denounce, which started as a way for grieving families to remember loved ones lost to coronavirus. Now with 60,000 members on Facebook, the group is compiling evidence to hold authorities in northern Italy accountable for what they deem to be ‘negligence’.

President of the group, Luca Fusco, said the Italian tenor would “soon change his ideas” if he visited Brescia or Bergamo, cities where thousands have died.

Massimo Galli, head of Infectious Diseases at a Milan hospital, said the claims made by Mr Bocelli “had no basis in science” and said he was pushing a “dangerous” message.

Read more: Andrea Bocelli violated Italy’s lockdown because he felt ‘humiliated and offended’ >

Bocelli and wife Veronica Berti attend a presentation of the show 'The Virus That Drives Us Mad'
Bocelli and wife Veronica Berti attend a presentation of the show 'The Virus That Drives Us Mad'. Picture: Getty

The Italian government was similarly dismayed by Bocelli’s speech, which included the line: “I know a lot of people but none of them ended up in intensive care. So, what was all this sense of gravity for?”

Pierpaolo Sileri, the deputy health minister, said he believed the classical singer “wanted to express the inconvenience of every Italian who, because of lockdown, stayed home. I wouldn’t have said those words, but I imagine he’ll be able to explain it somehow.”

One quick to criticise Bocelli’s comments was Italian rapper Fedez, who did a virtual presentation with the tenor to raise funds for a hospital during the pandemic. Without naming Bocelli, Fedez said:

“If you don’t know anyone who has been in the ICU and if you allow yourself to instil the doubt that the pandemic is a fantasy, I present you with a friend of mine who, because of COVID, had to undergo a lung transplant at age 18. Being silent from time to time doesn’t hurt.”

Bocelli’s remarks came as a surprise to many, after he brought great unity and peace to the country at the height of lockdown with his record-breaking Easter Sunday concert, which had 28 million views from across the globe in its first 24 hours.

Read more: Andrea Bocelli reveals he had COVID-19 before Easter concert >

At the time Bocelli said the performance, in which he sang sacred pieces and traditional spirituals to an empty Duomo cathedral in Milan, would be “an opportunity to pray together… a prayer for Milan and for the world, in front of an absolutely painful, tragic and unsettling event”.

It later transpired that Bocelli had recovered from coronavirus weeks before the concert, but had only mild symptoms.

The tenor has since apologised for his comments, saying: “If my speech to the Italian Senate caused suffering, I wish to extend my sincere apologies, because my intention could not have been more different.

“[My intent] was to send a message of hope for a near future in which – children first and foremost – can find a sense of normality again and hope to live ‘as children’, playing with and hugging one another, as they should at their age, and to be able to grow up happy and healthy.”

Although Italy has relaxed its lockdown rules slightly since March and April, face masks are still mandatory on public transport and in shops, and social distancing of one metre is required in public spaces.

Theatres and concert halls can now resume; indoor events with a maximum attendance of 200 audience members; and 1,000 for outdoor areas.

35,123 people in Italy are estimated to have died of coronavirus – the fifth highest death toll in the world, behind the United States, Brazil, United Kingdom and Mexico.