Italy's president has pushed back at Boris Johnson's explanation for Britain's weak coronavirus response, noting that his citizens "also love freedom".
Mr Johnson had told MPs this week that Britain was a "freedom-loving country" when asked why lower Covid-19 infection rates could be found in Italy and Germany.
But the prime minister's Tuesday remarks prompted ridicule and outrage abroad, where lower infection rates are more likely to be attributed to a functioning test-and-trace system.
Italy's ANSA news agency reports that Sergio Mattarella, the country's president, said: “We Italians also love freedom, but we also care about seriousness”.
He was asked about the prime minister's remarks during a visit to Sardinia.
The British prime minister's remarks, which appeared to link the better Covid-19 response in Italy and German with their history of totalitarianism, sparked a debate in Italy.
On commentator in the Corriere della Sera newspaper wrote on Thursday: “In short, if we put masks on here more than in London it’s because we had Mussolini and not Churchill.”
Italy, which was hit earliest in the coronavirus outbreak, has seen cases tick higher in in recent weeks but has so far managed to avoid a new surge of infections.
The United Kingdom has the highest official Covid-19 death toll in Europe, with 41,862. Italy is the second-worst affected with 35,758 deaths recorded.