Dr Christian Jessen claims Italians are using coronavirus for a ‘long siesta’. More than 1,000 people have died in Italy

Christian Jessen minimised the "panic" surrounding the coronavirus pandemic. (David M. Benett/Dave Benett/Getty Images)

British TV personality Dr Christian Jessen said that Italian people are using the coronavirus pandemic as an “excuse” to have a “long siesta”, while acknowledging that his comments are “a little bit racist”.


Speaking on FUBAR Radio‘s Access All Areas, Jessen sounded out his take on the pandemic that has paralysed Italy, the largest hub outside of mainland China of COVID-19. A swollen death toll of more than 1,000 has seen the country’s cities emptied out and on lockdown.

What a delightful nap!

Christian Jessen: ‘[Coronavirus] is bit of an excuse.’

As caution mixes with hysteria, paranoia and fear, doctors in Italy are facing questions of who should live or die as the virus overwhelms the country’s sophisticated health-care system.

Hospitals have been swamped by patients, becoming triage wards as medics must prioritise treating COVID-19 above other ailments, cancelling surgeries as respirators become rarer by the day.

Italian streets once heaving with the clinks of espresso cups have been silenced by the coronavirus pandemic. (MARCO BERTORELLO/AFP via Getty Images)

Italian streets once heaving with the clinks of espresso cups have been silenced by the coronavirus pandemic. (MARCO BERTORELLO/AFP via Getty Images)

Streets have been frozen as all business except pharmacies and supermarkets as of Wednesday have been closed.

This situation, Dr Christian Jessen said, is simply Italians using the outbreak as an “excuse” to have a nap.

“This might be a little bit racist to say this, [and] you’ll have to make apologies, but do you not think it’s a bit of an excuse?” he said.

“The Italians, any old excuse to, you know, shut down everything and stop work for a bit and have a long siesta.”

British physician says people are ‘more worried’ about COVID-19 than necessary.

When asked whether British prime minister Boris Johnson was wise to delay closing schools, Dr Christian Jessen responded: “I do agree with him actually.

“I think it’s an epidemic lived out more in the press than in reality.

“I mean if you think about flu right, without getting too heavy, flu kills thousands every single year.”

Host Stephen Lang then informed the Embarrassing Bodies host that 10 people have passed away from COVID-19 now.

“Now I know that’s tragic for those involved but it’s not exactly huge numbers is it compared to flu, which is thousands,” Jessen said.

“It doesn’t affect mothers, it doesn’t affect pregnant women, it doesn’t affect children so far as we know. So why this massive panic?

“This is like a bad cold really, let’s be honest.”

While information supplied from leading health authorities remains limited, experts from the Chinese Centres of Disease Control say around 0.2 per cent of children and teens have died of the virus.

Moreover, the British government has sought to tamper down fears by saying there is “no obvious sign” that pregnant people are more likely to be severely affected by COVID-19, experts remain dubious.

“I’m not so confident,” professor in medicine Paul Hunter told BBC News.

“It is based on data from nine pregnant women, so I don’t think you can say everything is fine.”

When asked if the media were scaremongering, Jessen answered: “Totally, totally.

“I think it’s a Daily Mail epidemic. I don’t think it’s a – it’s a real epidemic. Well, it’s obviously a real epidemic, but I think we are more worried than we need to be.”

For clarification, the World Health Organisation announced Thursday that the outbreak is now a pandemic.

“Now I might have to eat my words and I really hope I don’t!” Jessen then added.