A man has reportedly died and others are in intensive care after attending “coronavirus parties” in a bid to catch the disease.
At least three other people, including a child, are said to have been hospitalised in the Alpine region after catching the virus at similar events.
Health chiefs believe the patients are anti-vaxxers who deliberately attempted to become infected so they could obtain a “green pass”, which is now required for work and leisure in Italy, according to local media.
The only way to get a pass in the country is either through vaccination or by recovering from infection within the previous six months.
Patrick Franzoni, co-ordinator of the anti-Covid unit in Bolzano, told Italian newspaper Il Dolomiti: “We have received more than one account from doctors of patients who admitted to having been infected on purpose.
“[They do this] to develop antibodies, and to obtain the green pass without vaccination,” he said.
“There are long-term consequences and even young people can end up in hospital.”
According to Dr Franzoni, at least one of the partygoers is infected with the virus and the other attendees deliberately come into close contact with them by hugging, kissing and sharing drinks.
In a closed room, between five and 10 people can “easily” become infected in one night, he said.
The Prosecutor’s Office in Bolzano has now reportedly opened an investigation into the so-called “corona-parties”.
The practice is also thought to be widespread in Austria and Germany, with some anti-vaccine parents reportedly involving their children.
Bolzano is among the worst-affected areas in Italy, having been hit hard by the winter Covid wave sweeping across the border from Austria.
Austria on Monday became the first country in western Europe to reimpose a lockdown since the introduction of vaccines.
Germany and the Netherlands could also face tougher restrictions, with German health minister, Jens Spahn predicting most of the country would be “vaccinated, cured or dead” by the end of winter.
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