Did a Champions League Match Cause Italy’s COVID-19 Problems?
Sports fans in America were shocked when the NCAA Tournament and spring championships were canceled. Ditto the NBA, NHL and the start of Major League Baseball.
Evidently, it was a very prudent decision.
Northern Italy is home to one of the world's worst COVID-19 clusters. And, officials are looking to a February 19th match between Atalanta and Spain's Valencia in Milan at the catalyst, according to a story on yahoo sports.
The match was held in Milan because Atalanta's home stadium, located in Bergamo, wasn't big enough. It's estimated 40,000 Bergamo residents made the trip to Milan for the match. At the time, the coronavirus was barely on the radar of Italian officials as the virus had not made its presence felt in Western Europe.
Fans mingled and hugged as Atalanta won 4-1. Eventually they traveled home, many in tightly packed public transportation vehicles.
Now the city of 120,000 has 7,000 confirmed cases and more than 1,000 deaths and many are pointing to the match as the catalyst, including Fabiano DiMarco, chief pneumologist at Bergamo's hospital.
“I have heard a lot (of theories), I’ll say mine: Feb. 19, 40,000 Bergamaschi went to San Siro for Atalanta-Valencia,” di Marco told Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera. “In buses, cars, trains. A biological bomb, unfortunately.”
Two days after the game dubbed by local media as “Game Zero” took place, the first case of coronavirus in Italy was confirmed. By March 9, the entire country had suspended all sporting events. Valencia, which saw 2,500 fans travel to Italy for the game, now has 2,600 confirmed cases.