With Italy being one of the most affected countries by the coronavirus pandemic, officials are looking back at the 19 February Champions League game between Atalanta and Valencia in Milan as a possible catalyst for the spread of the disease.
As per reports by the Associated Press, over 40,000 residents of Bergamo were present at Milan during the game — a time when the coronavirus was yet to make its presence felt in Western Europe.
Since the home stadium of Atlanta, which is in Bergamo, seats 21,000 people, it did not meet UEFA's standards for a high-profile game. The match was thus hosted at Milan's San Siro Stadium, which has a capacity of over 40,000 people.
Following the match, which was eventually won by Atalanta, the same people returned home in public transport, celebrating their victory, with the report adding that now, in the city of 1,20,000, over 7,000 coronavirus cases have been registered with 1,000 confirmed deaths.
Bergamo has been termed as the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in Italy.
Fabiano di Marco, chief pneumologist at a Bergamo hospital, shared his theory that the outbreak started when on 19 February, around 40,000 Bergamaschi went to San Siro for Atalanta-Valencia, the report added.
Even Bergamo mayor Giorgio Gori reiterated those thoughts during a Facebook chat about the city's ignorance regarding the pandemic. According to Gori, if the virus was already circulating in Europe in January, then the match provided the perfect place for it to spread.
As per reports, the first case was seen two days after the match and by 9 March, a shutdown had been ordered in the country.
According to the Associated Press, Valencia, which saw 2,500 fans travel to Italy for the game, now has 2,600 confirmed cases.
Updated Date: Mar 26, 2020 13:58:34 IST