They only wanted to amuse themselves last summer after a tough two-month lockdown on the sunny Sardinian coast. Instead, young Italians who had been to nightclubs returned home either with Covid-19 or laden with guilt, regret or anger at the authorities.
Nightclubs like those in Spain, France, Great Britain, Austria and Thailand have triggered coronavirus outbreaks since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic.
A vacationer, Martina, who was returning from a break on the island, wrote in a letter from Corriere della Sera at the end of August 2020: “I infected my whole family for one evening in a nightclub. My father is fighting for his life. “
Francesco, a 21-year-old from Rome who was also infected with the coronavirus after visiting a nightclub in Sardinia, told Il Giornale: “They told us we could go to clubs and only have to wear a face mask. We followed the rules … it’s obvious that we in our twenties couldn’t wait for our social lives to return. But please don’t blame us if the infections increase. “
Night clubs were also a key factor in the major coronavirus outbreak in the Austrian ski resort of Ischgl (called “Ibiza on Ice”) last year following infections in connection with après-ski bars.
A few months later, there was an outbreak related to the nightclub district in Seoul, which resulted in the conviction of gay clubbers.
More recently, Bangkok authorities closed 196 nightclubs amid a coronavirus resurgence.
But while some governments have been reluctant to reopen clubs, others have allowed nightclubs to open their doors. In the UK, where new infections with Covid averaged around 50,000 a day, nightclubs reopened on Monday for the first time in 17 months.
Visitors to clubs in England are not legally required to wear face coverings or observe social distancing, although a study in early June found that nearly three-quarters of coronavirus cases among University of Cambridge students last fall were attributed to a single nightclub.
And although Boris Johnson’s administration is now planning to ban people without a full vaccination from entering nightclubs or other crowded venues, the measure won’t go into effect for two months from the end of September.
In Italy, which was terrified last summer by outbreaks believed to have contributed to the country’s second wave of Covid-19, which begins around early autumn 2020, the government is expected to announce a reopening date this week but with the requirement that clubbers must be fully vaccinated.
Although the outbreaks at clubs in other Italian vacation hotspots were equally severe, Sardinia, which was relatively Covid-free until August, came into the spotlight due to the contagion at Billionaire, the Costa Smeralda venue that was owned by the former Formula One Chef Flavio Briatore. The nightclub is now facing charges of “epidemic negligence”.
Briatore was hospitalized in Milan in late August after contracting the infection, as was his friend Silvio Berlusconi, the former Italian prime minister. Berlusconi was confirmed to have the coronavirus in early September, shortly after returning from his villa on the Costa Smeralda. The 84-year-old was pictured with Briatore in front of his holiday home in Sardinia; neither wore face masks.
Covid-19 infections among soccer players, celebrities and other clubbers have also been traced back to billionaires. Two other night clubs in Sardinia, Phi Beach and Country Club, were charged with negligence after failing to adequately protect staff.
Walter Ricciardi, a scientific advisor with the Italian Ministry of Health, said in July nightclubs are “particularly dangerous environments” for the virus to spread. “It only takes a few seconds to become infected. Discos should only be opened under very strict controls, with access only allowed to people who are vaccinated, have already had Covid-19 or present a negative test.
But after the lessons we learned last summer, some young Italians aren’t that desperate to rush back to the nightclubs.
“That really scared me,” said Francesco Tardani, who tested positive with his girlfriend after a holiday in Sardinia. “We only went to outdoor bars [on the Costa Smeralda] and I’m not entirely sure how we got the coronavirus as the friends we were with didn’t get it. But one thing is certain – I avoid night clubs. “