Italy is the only country with most number of Casualties since the outbreak of Pandemic Coronavirus,
More than a month later, experts are pointing to the Feb. 19 UEFA Champions league between Atlanta and Valencia game as one of the biggest reasons why Bergamo province has become one of the focal point of the coronavirus pandemic which was termed as a “biological bomb” by a respiratory specialist.
The match, which local media have named “Game Zero,” was played two days before the first case of COVID-19 was confirmed in Italy.
“We were mid-February so we didn’t have the circumstances of what was happening,” Bergamo Mayor Giorgio Gori said this week during a live Facebook chat with the Foreign Press Association in Rome. “If it’s true what they’re saying that the virus was already circulating in Europe in January, then it’s very probable that 40,000 Bergamaschi in the stands of San Siro, all together, exchanged the virus between them. As it is possible that so many Bergamaschi that night got together in houses, bars to watch the match and did the same.
“Unfortunately, we couldn’t have known. No one knew the virus was already here,” the mayor added. “It was inevitable.”
Less than a week after the game, the first cases were reported in the province of Bergamo. It was at about the same time in Valencia, a journalist who traveled to the match became the second person to have contacted the virus in the region, and it didn’t take long before people who were in contact with him also had the virus, as also the Valencia fans who were at the game.
While Atalanta announced its first positive case Tuesday for goalkeeper Marco Sportiello, Valencia said more than a third of its squad got infected, “despite the strict measures adopted by the club” after the match in Milan.
As of Tuesday, nearly 7,000 people in the province of Bergamo had tested positive for COVID-19 and more than 1,000 people had died from the virus — making Bergamo the most deadly province in all of Italy for the pandemic. The Valencia region had more than 2,600 people infected.
“I’m sure that 40,000 people hugging and kissing each other while standing a centimeter apart — four times, because Atalanta scored four goals (the final result was 4-1) — was definitely a huge accelerator for contagion,”Luca Lorini, the head of the intensive care unit at the Pope John XXIII hospital in Bergamo told The Associated Press on Wednesday.
“Right now we’re at war. When peace time comes, I can assure you we will go and see how many of the 40,000 people who went to the game became infected,” Lorini added. “Right now we have other priorities.”
The official attendance for the Feb. 19 game was 45,792 — a “home” record for Atalanta, a small club making its debut in Europe’s top club competition.
Atalanta captain Alejandro “Papu” Gómez told Argentine daily Olé it was “terrible” to have played that game.
Before the match, Valencia fans freely roamed around Milan and gathered at some of the city’s plazas, including the Piazza del Duomo, drinking and chanting team songs.
Looking back, the conditions for virus contagion were high, with thousands of people gathering without much concern — at a time when the outbreak in Europe wasn’t yet known — and then traveling back home. Nearly 30 busloads of fans made the 60-kilometer (37-mile) trip from Bergamo to Milan.
The evening before the match, there was no social distancing as officials from both clubs mingled and exchanged gifts and handshakes at a gala dinner offered by Atalanta.