Coronavirus patients in Italy who refused to self-isolate could be facing murder charges if they pass on the infection to vulnerable people, a new report claims.
As the European country is overrun with COVID-19 cases – which have clogged the medical system and led to a sharp spike in both cases and deaths – the Metro reported government officials are preparing to take drastic measures to stop its spread. That includes potential criminal charges for anyone who knowingly exposes others to the virus.
The report noted that anyone who comes down with the symptoms associated with the virus, including fever and cough, has been ordered to stay under self-imposed isolation. Those who choose not to remain at home could face a charge of causing injury, which comes with a jail term of up to three years. If someone with COVID-19 goes out in public and passes the virus on to an elderly person or anyone with pre-existing conditions that leaves them vulnerable, they could face charges of “intentional murder” and spend up to 21 years in prison, the report added.
The charges could extend beyond that as well, the report noted.
“Those who carry on with their daily business after knowingly making contact with a coronavirus patient could also face the same penalty, as well as those who fail to warn people they may have infected,” the report said.
“Italy’s new legal measures have been compared to punishments for people who willingly pass on HIV to unsuspecting victims.”
Italy has been one of the countries hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic, with more than 12,000 confirmed cases and a death toll that reached 827 on Thursday. In response, the country has taken drastic measures including ordering the closure of all shops except food stores and pharmacies. As the BBC reported, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said that bars, restaurants, and all other non-essential company departments would be closing as a precaution against further spread of the virus.
On Wednesday, the World Health Organization officially declared the coronavirus a worldwide pandemic, which is defined as a serious disease that is spreading rapidly in multiple countries at the same time.
Others have joined Italy in closing down public events, including the United States where the NBA announced on Wednesday night that it would be suspending the current season after Utah Jazz player Rudy Gobert tested positive for coronavirus.
Global stock markets have also fallen sharply, as investors prepare for widespread economic impact to businesses as a result of the massive quarantines and disruption to supply chains.