Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte and six other cabinet-level officials on Thursday received formal notification of a criminal probe into their handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
News of the notifications was confirmed by Conte's office. In a statement, the prime minister's office said the decision to transfer the case to a special court for ministers was a formality.
Soon after the notices were served, Conte went to social media to defend his government's actions during the pandemic.
"The decisions made were highly challenging, sometimes painful, and were made without a manual and without guidelines or protocols for action," Conte said. "We acted on the basis of science and conscience without pretending to be infallible."
Italy was the first country outside of Asia to face a major outbreak of the coronavirus. COVID-19 went on to sicken more than 250,000 people in the country while claiming more than 35,000 lives.
Most indicators show Italy has had the outbreak largely under control since late April. The government began lifting lockdown measures starting in early May.