Game Zero: Coronavirus outbreak in Italy linked to a February 19 Champions League game

As Italy is battling with coronavirus pandemic, the Champions League football match between Atalanta and Spanish club Valencia, which was played at San Siro Stadium on February 19 has been linked with the outbreak of the deadly virus in the country.

Game Zero: Coronavirus outbreak in Italy linked to a February 19 Champions League game
Reuters photo

As Italy is battling with coronavirus pandemic, the Champions League football match between Atalanta and Spanish club Valencia, which was played at San Siro Stadium on February 19 has been linked with the outbreak of the deadly virus in the country.

Several experts have claimed that the February 19 game, which was attended by hundreds of people at Bergamo, is one of the biggest reasons why the city has become one of the epicenters of the coronavirus pandemic. It is to be noted that 35% of Valencia’s footballers also became infected with coronavirus after the match.

The match has been dubbed “Game Zero” by local media and it was held two days before the first case of locally transmitted 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 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.

Few days after 'Game Zero', Bergamo had reported its first cases of coronavirus.

At about the same time in Spain's Valencia, a person who came to Bergamo to watch the match became the second person infected in the region, and after him the deadly virus spread rapidly in Spain.

It is to be noted that around 7,000 people in the province of Bergamo had tested positive for COVID-19 till Tuesday. Over 1,000 people had died from the virus - making Bergamo the most deadly province in Italy. On the other hand, there are over 2,600 infected people in Valencia.

Luca Lorini, the head of the intensive care unit at the Pope John XXIII hospital in Bergamo, told The Associated Press, “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.”

“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.