Tenor Andrea Bocelli gives Italy government earful over coronavirus

FILE PHOTO: Italian opera singer Andrea Bocelli participates in ''Music for hope'' event at an empty Duomo Cathedral in Milan
FILE PHOTO: Italian opera singer Andrea Bocelli rehearses in an empty Duomo square on Easter Sunday ahead of a livestreamed concert for the event ''Music for hope'', inside the empty Duomo cathedral, which is intended as a symbol of love, hope and healing amidst the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Milan, Italy, April 12, 2020. REUTERS/Alex Fraser/File Photo

July 27, 2020

By Philip Pullella

ROME (Reuters) – Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli on Monday issued a scathing criticism of the Italian government’s handling of the coronavirus, saying he was humiliated by a recent lockdown, and urged people to disobey rules still in place.

His surprise comments at a conference in Italy’s Senate were remarkable because the 61-year-old, blind superstar was a symbol of national unity at the height of the lockdown on Easter Sunday when he sang in an empty Milan cathedral in a live-streamed solo performance called Music for Hope.

“I felt humiliated and offended. I could not leave the house even though I had committed no crime,” Bocelli said at the conference attended by opposition politicians including Matteo Salvini, leader of the far-right League party who has attacked the government of Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte over the handling of the coronavrius crisis.

A national lockdown began in early March and was eased in stages over three months.

Bocelli confessed he disobeyed lockdown rules “because I did not think it was right or healthy to stay home at my age.”

He also said he believed the situation could not have been as serious as authorities were saying because he did not know anyone who had to go into intensive care.

“So what was all this sense of gravity for?” he said.

More than 35,000 Italians have died from the coronavirus.

Regulations regarding social distancing and wearing masks in indoor public places such as stores are still in effect and Bocelli seemed to encourage civil disobedience.

“Let’s refuse to follow this rule. Let’s read books, move around, get to know each other, talk, dialogue …,” he said.

(Reporting by Philip Pullella in Rome; Editing by Matthew Lewis)