An Italian politician has apologized for suggesting the coronavirus was caused by poor Chinese hygiene and cultural practices, including eating “live mice.”
Luca Zaia, the governor of Veneto, made the remarks in a local television interview.
“The hygiene that our people, the Venetians and the Italian citizens have, the cultural training we have, is that of taking a shower, of washing, of washing one’s hands often,” Zaia told Antenna 3-Nord Est TV, Reuters reported.
“It is a cultural fact that China has paid a big price for this epidemic because we have seen them all eat mice live or things like that,” he said.
Though Chinese people in China are known for eating a variety of unusual fare — dogs included — the remarks stung the Chinese embassy in Rome.
“At a crucial time like this, when China and Italy stand side-by-side to deal with the epidemic, an Italian politician has spared no slander about the Chinese people. This is a gratuitous attack that leaves us stunned,” embassy officials posted on Facebook.
Veneto, a northeastern region of Italy, has been particularly hard-hit by coronavirus cases. Across the country, at least 888 people have been infected and 21 deaths reported; Italy is now the most affected country after China, where the virus originated.
“My words came out badly, I agree. If anyone was offended, I am sorry,” Zaia told Corriere della Sera newspaper, Reuters reported “I wanted to say that when it comes to food health and safety, controls change from country to country.”
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