Bergamo, Italy: Ecstatic fans cheering and hugging at the Champion's League Atalanta-Valencia game in February boosted the spread of the coronavirus, the mayor of the worst-hit Italian city said Tuesday.
Bergamo, in the northern Lombardy region, is now Italy's most-affected province, with nearly 6,500 infections.
Its football team Atalanta had been having a stellar season, with a historic Champions League qualification, and its game against Spanish rival Valencia on February 19 at the San Siro stadium in Milan had been feverishly awaited by fans.
Atalanta pulled off a stunning 4-1 victory -- each goal met with shouts of glee, fans clutching at each other in excitement.
Bergamo Mayor Giorgio Gori told foreign journalists the match was "among the sad explanations" for the high infection rate in the city and wider province.
"Some 40,000 Bergamo inhabitants went to Milan to watch the game. Others watched it from their homes, in families, in groups, at the bar," he said.
"It's clear that evening was a situation in which the virus was widely spread," he added.
But Gori said he didn't think it was "the starting point". Instead he believed Bergamo's troubles began when a patient at the Fenaroli Hospital in Alzano was admitted with coronavirus but it went undetected, allowing him to infect others there.
Some 3,776 people have died so far in Lombardy, out of a total of over 6,000 in Italy.
Gori said he thought the statistics failed to represent the real toll on Bergamo and the surrounding region because "there are certainly many elderly people who died at home, without it having been possible to take them to hospital".
"These people are not included in the official statistics. No tests have been done on them either before or after death".