The country continues to apply increasingly severe restrictions in view of the worsening situation.
A month ago Rome, Milan, Florence, Naples or Bergamo wasted life. Everything was going normally, and the country was, in fact, preparing to celebrate the fifth anniversary of the death of its great painter, Rafael. Italy looked with concern at China, epicenter of the pandemic, but with the feeling that everything was under control. The infected cases were three, all imported from the Asian country, and they were isolated in the capital in a reference hospital for infectious diseases. The first confirmed local infection that February 21, now impossible to forget, stopped everything in its tracks and gave way to the nightmare.
A 38-year-old man, an athlete, with no connection to China, residing in the town of Codogno, a town of 15,000 inhabitants 60 kilometers from Milan, was the official patient in Italy. The virus spread in the hospital where he had been treated, initially for atypical pneumonia, also among health personnel. Scientists were unable to identify the first patient who infected this man, so the virus containment was complicated. According to experts, the virus had been circulating in the transalpine country for weeks without anyone having noticed it, mistaken for common flu or transmitted by asymptomatic patients. “The one we called patient one was probably patient 200,” said virologist Fabrizio Pregliasco.
On Sunday, February 23, when the official number of those infected exceeded 130, the Government ordered the closure of 11 towns in Lombardy and Veneto completely, where 50,000 people live and where most of the infections had been registered. Today, the good news only comes from those villages, where the spread of the virus has been almost completely stopped. In addition, the first infected, after spending almost three weeks admitted to the ICU, is about to be discharged.
In the rest of the country, which a few days ago surpassed China in the number of deaths, the situation remains critical, although on Sunday, March 22, there was a slight slowdown in infections and deaths compared to the previous day. In the last 24 hours, 651 people who have been infected have died, making the total number of deaths with coronavirus in Italy 5,476. On the last day, 3,957 people have been infected and since the outbreak was unleashed, 59,138 cases have been registered, of which 7,024 have been cured.
“It is the worst crisis we have experienced since the end of World War II,” Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte summarized on Saturday night when he decreed the closure of all factories and productive activities that are not essential for the country’s operation. The measures are increasingly restrictive. This Sunday, Health, and Interior prohibited people from changing locations, except for proven work needs or for urgent or health reasons. Until now, people were allowed to travel from one city to another to return to their own residence, so many people, especially students, have moved en masse from the north to the south, less affected.
Widespread awareness and bans have come gradually. Initially, according to Sandra Zampa, undersecretary of Health, Italy did not perceive the example of China as a practical warning, but as “a science fiction film that did not concern us.” Later, when the health crisis broke out, the rest of Europe and the United States looked at the transalpine country “as we had looked at China”, in Zampa’s words.
On February 27, with more than 400 infections and a dozen deaths, the leader of the Democratic Party, Nicola Zingaretti, who governs in coalition with the 5 Star Movement, published on his social networks an image of himself surrounded by friends, in a typical Milanese appetizer. “Obligatory word: normality. Let’s not lose our customs ”, it was read in the caption. The same day, when no other European country was still counting local cases, the Foreign and Health Ministers appeared before the foreign press and assured that the threat of contagion for the bulk of the population was negligible and that Italy was a safe country. They feared the havoc the virus could wreak on the country’s battered economy.
Just 10 days later, the number of cases had skyrocketed to 5,300 and more than 200 people had died. Zingaretti again posted a video on his networks, this time announcing that he, too, had contracted the virus.
That same night, the Prime Minister ordered the confinement of 16 million people in the Lombardy region and 14 other northern provinces. Two days later, on March 11, with an Italy still in a state of shock, the Government extended the quarantine to the entire national territory and closed all businesses except for food, pharmacies, tobacconists, and kiosks. Giuseppe Conte launched a clear message, in the form of a slogan: “I stay at home.” “Let’s keep our distance today so that we can hug each other stronger tomorrow,” he said.