Italy’s President Conte Changes Strategy to Fight Covid-19
On October 17, Italy reported more than 11,700 infections and 69 deaths related to the coronavirus. That rate of growth, according to Professor Massimo Galli, director of the infectious diseases department of the Ospedale Sacco in Milan, will increase the curve, with the Italian situation reflecting what happened in France and Germany two weeks ago.
With vacations ending and schools reopening in September, many experts predicted that the virus would spread, even as others, including the chief anesthetist Professor Alberto Zangrillo, of the Ospedale San Raffaele in Milan, and the infectious disease specialist Professor Matteo Bassetti, of the Policlinico San Martino in Genova, said that the outbreak was under control and there was nothing to fear.
During the summer, the Italian scientific community was divided between the deniers and those who warned that outbreaks attributed to the virus would continue. Two medical professionals – Professor Galli and Andrea Crisanti, the microbiologist of the Padova University – were accused of playing the role of Cassandra, the priestess of doom in Greek mythology.
Professor Crisanti, in his latest interview for the newspaper Il fatto quotidiano, said that Covid-19 in Italy has reached “exponential growth,” due to the increase of the cases that doubled in only one week and that will soon lead to a general lockdown and not just to what has been called a “surgical lockdown.”
What Professors Galli and Crisanti affirm is that Italy must manage two big issues. First, the country will need to flatten the curve, but after that, will have to invest in contact tracing that so far has failed. Italy lost several months after the curve was flattened during the summer and should have put all of its efforts into setting up an effective contact tracing program.
The newspaper Il Sole 24 ore, citing the ISS (Istituto Superiore di Sanità) which manages the public health in the country, said that Italy is actually dealing with the same problems that were handled last March: more beds will be needed in intensive care; the infected living in contact with family members in the same home would need to be kept in isolation somewhere else; and additional medical and nursing personal are still needed.
The emergency is viewed as so dire that last Sunday evening President Conte (Council of Ministers) signed a new decree that is a compromise between the public health and the economy, rather than a real containment measure, as underlined by the media.
And while Professor Matteo Bassetti on October 18 on the Italian TV show “Non è L’Arena” declared that he appreciated the document and congratulated President Conte, Professor Galli and Professor Crisanti urged citizens to strictly limit all contacts and to leave home only if necessary.
The decree said that all bars and restaurants will serve from 5 a.m. to midnight at the tables and until 6 p.m. if the seats aren’t available with no more than six seats for each table; alcohol takeaways are forbidden after 6 p.m.; pools and gyms have a seven day period to adapt to the safety measures; schools are still open and for high schools, admissions will be staggered to help lessen congestion on public transport; university and public institutions will work remotely; all the mayors will decide whether to close at 9 p.m. the streets in the center of the city where the “movida” takes place; all the amateur sports of contact are suspended, but professional leagues are allowed to play.
In addition to this, on October 19 the Lombardy Region, accepting Professors Galli and Crisanti suggestions, announced that a mini lockdown will take place during the weekends as all the shopping centers will be closed and during the entire week, starting from October 22, the Region will have a curfew from 11 p.m. until 5 a.m.
Vincenzo De Luca, the Region Campania Governor, decided to close the schools on October 16 and his decision unleashed criticism from the Minister of Education Lucia Azzolina who said at the Radio show RaiRadio1, “It’s a huge decision he would rethink about because schools are the safer places…” and President Conte sent a bitter message to De Luca, saying “Closing the schools is a wrong decision.” De Luca responded that “half measures are useless in this situation.” Out of the chorus of the economists and sociologist supporting in school attendance because the virus is going to grow a future generation of poor kids, Professor Galli stands up for De Luca and says : “…I am with De Luca. He took a very logical decision…”
Italian citizens are now required more then ever to use their sense of responsibility to help fight the virus and to avoid one more economic disaster. But despite all of the efforts and commitment, President Conte is still refusing to ask for the MES (the European Stability Mechanism – the financial institution to help euro countries that are in financial distress) because, as he says, it would increase taxes and push to cut spending.
The decree will be effective until November 6.
Top photo by Federica di Cintio – La Rotonda dei Mille di Garibaldi, statue of Garibaldi, in Bergamo, the symbol of the city.