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Italy did not see it coming

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Before the first case was reported, there was an unusually high number of pneumonia cases recorded at a hospital in Codogno in northern Italy

Adnan Shafi

Italy was in a bit of denial and did not move fast enough to engage in social distancing and lockdown measures.

Once the beacon of European fun, frivolity, fashion, food, and passion, Italy has fast fallen into the shadows of a ghost nation, debauched by the coronavirus, a cracking medical infrastructure, and rising death toll.

Outside of China, the illustrious nation of 60.5 million has become the focal point of the outbreak, with the second-highest number of infections. The past few days have brought about the country’s highest single-day spike in deaths, claiming the lives of over 475 people. More than 2,000 people are hospitalized and in intensive care.

Nearly 220,000 people have now been confirmed with the coronavirus globally, of which at least 84,000 have recovered from COVID-19, while more than 8,800 have died.

Officially it began in Feb. 20, when a 38-year-old man checked himself into a local hospital in the town of Codogno in Lombardy. He tested positive with the virus, becoming the first recorded patient with the COVID-19 virus in Italy.

Before the first case was reported, there was an unusually high number of pneumonia cases recorded at a hospital in Codogno in northern Italy, the head of the emergency ward Stefano Paglia told the newspaper La Repubblica, suggesting it is possible patients with the virus were treated as if they had a seasonal flu. Health facilities hosting these patients could have become sites for infection, helping proliferate the spread of the virus.

The massive and sudden surge of seriously and critically ill patients has completely overwhelmed hospitals in the northern region of Italy. This has caused the case-fatality rate to skyrocket in the northern region of Italy, because there simply aren’t enough ICU beds or ventilators for every patient, forcing doctors with the grim decision of picking who gets the ICU bed – and has a chance of surviving – versus who doesn’t and likely won’t survive.

Italians are incredibly communal, social people who live in multigenerational family clusters and multifamily housing units. Social distancing is the opposite of Italian culture.

It is the worst-hit country after China, with cases of the virus confirmed in all 20 Italian regions. Italy remains the worst affected country in Europe and second only to China, where the highly infectious virus first emerged.

As cases ratcheted up, Italy imposed nationwide restrictions similar to those seen in China — placing more than 60 million people under lockdown.

Italy’s world-class health system has been pushed to the brink amid the outbreak, especially in the country’s north, which has seen the highest concentration of cases.

People are being treated in field hospitals and lined up in corridors inside its straining public hospitals. Doctors and nurses are being infected, due to a lack of adequate protection.

Italian authorities are considering lengthening school closures beyond April 3, amid rumors of the lockdown also being extended. The situation “is similar to what we experienced two months ago in Wuhan, China, the epicenter of Covid-19.

“In the city of Wuhan after one month since the adoption of the lockdown policy, we see a decreasing trend from the peak of the disease. Yet for many trapped inside the painfully somber nation, it has come down to mourning and waiting game, steeped in tragedy and the unknown.

In some of the hardest-hit areas, local cemetery churches have been hurriedly converted into makeshift morgues, and the days ahead are only set to become darker.

(The writer is a student of English literature. He contributes to ‘Kashmir Vision’)


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