Carabinieri police put a number of people under house arrest and Sicilian Health Chief Ruggero Razza has been placed under investigation over allegations the COVID-19 figures the region sent to the national authorities were altered, sources said on Tuesday.
The people put under house arrest worked for the DASOE unit of the Sicilian health department, the sources said.
They allegedly changed the number of new COVID cases and the number of tests done in data sent to the Higher Health Institute (ISS) as part of a "heinous political design" to stop Sicily being classed as a high-risk red zone and put into lockdown.
Investigators suspect that Razza was "partially involved in the criminal activities of the DASOE" unit, the sources said.
They said telephones belonging to Razza had been seized.
The investigation stemmed the discovery of falsified data from one laboratory.
According to a wiretap, on one occasion Razza told an official to "spread out a little" some coronavirus-related deaths that had emerged from three days earlier.
Sicilian Governor Nello Musumeci stood by Razza and said he was surprised by the case, given that Sicily had asked to be declared a red zone even when its COVID data would have allowed it to remain an orange zone. "I have faith in Ruggero Razza... I am convinced that the truth will come out soon," Musumeci told La7 television. "What prize would we have won, when we were the first to ask for more restrictive measures? "I personally asked the national government for two weeks of red zone, along with Razza, when the whole of Italy was doing everything possible to stay an orange zone. "That is why I am relaxed".