In Italy at the end of last week and through the weekend, the number of patients with coronavirus infection COVID-19 began to increase sharply.
According to the latest information, more than 200 cases were diagnosed in five northern regions of the country, six people died, while the first case was discovered by accident, and the zero patient has not yet been found. The Italian authorities imposed strict quarantine measures in cities where cases of coronavirus infection were recorded: football championship matches and all public events were canceled, universities, schools and museums were closed, and the European Union is considering introducing tightened control at the borders of the Schengen zone to prevent the spread of the disease.
According to the World Health Organization, an outbreak of coronavirus infection in Italy began on February 22: six SARS-CoV-2 infected with coronavirus were found in the country per day (the total number increased to nine). By February 23, there were 76 confirmed cases in Italy.
According to La Reppublica, the first patient who discovered a coronavirus was a 38-year-old Italian hospitalized in Codogno (Lombardy region) with severe pneumonia. The publication notes that he was diagnosed by accident – doctors decided to conduct a test for coronavirus infection, although they did not think that the man was infected.
According to Corriere della Sera, by this time the patient managed to infect at least five doctors and nurses in the hospital. At a hospital in Dolo, in the Venice Region, where another person was infected, the infection was discovered in three medical workers. Head of the Civil Defense Service of Italy, Angello Borrelli, said that the doctors were not ready for an outbreak, since the main signs of COVID-19 are similar to flu symptoms.
“Patient Zero” is yet to be found – The search continues
At the same time, the source of infection – the so-called “Patient Zero” – the Italian authorities have not yet pinned down who this was. According to available information, none of the diseased in the north of the country recently visited China and did not contact the infected.
“This is a scenario that I have always been afraid of: the first to be infected was an Italian who had never been to [China]”Head of the Department of Infectious Diseases at the Italian Institute of Health Giovanni Rezza.
Pierre Luigi Lopalco, an epidemiologist at the University of Pisa, suggested that an asymptomatic (or mild) infection could have spread in Italy since January, before WHO declared the outbreak of coronavirus an emergency and China introduced quarantine measures. Against the background of seasonal flu, the coronavirus infection could simply not be noticed and taken for the flu or SARS.
“The patients we see now may belong to the second or third wave of infected people”Pierre Luigi Lopalco
According to the Italian Ministry of Health, at 12:00 on February 24, the total number of people infected in five Italian regions – Lombardy, Venice, Piedmont, Emilia-Romagna and Lazio – rose to 219, 23 people are in intensive care units, six died (according to ANSA, the deceased already seven; all of them are elderly people who also suffered from other diseases). Thus, over the past three days, Italy has become the third country in the world after China and South Korea in terms of the number of cases. Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte predicts that the number of infected will increase.
During February 22-23, authorities in the affected regions imposed strict quarantine measures. All patients with “flu-like symptoms” are quarantined without fail. More than a dozen cities with the largest number of cases were actually isolated – checkpoints of police and carabinieri were established at the exits. The authorities also announced their readiness to attract the army to ensure order. Restrictive measures will last at least two weeks, Conte said.
In five regions of Italy, all public events were canceled, including church services, museums were closed, classes at universities and schools were discontinued. Among other things, by decision of the authorities, the famous Venice Carnival was stopped, Milan Cathedral was closed, and the last two shows at Milan Fashion Week were held behind closed doors: a demonstration of new collections from Giorgio Armani and Laura Biagiotti was broadcast only on the Internet. The famous Milanese theater “La Scala” canceled all performances, starting from Sunday. Since February 25, ItalDesign Giugiaro automotive design bureau closes all factories in Italy.
On Saturday and Sunday, the matches of the Italian football championship “Atalanta” – “Sassuolo”, “Turin” – “Parma”, “Verona” – “Cagliari”, as well as “Inter” – “Sampdoria” were canceled. A meeting should be held today with representatives of Serie A and the Ministry of Sports, at which officials will decide on further matches. The head of government noted that the question of holding the Europa League match “Inter” – “Ludogorets”, scheduled for February 27.
Competitions in other sports, in particular volleyball and basketball matches, were also canceled.
Strict control in Schengen
Transport communication with Italy, fearing the spread of infection, was limited by the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Romania intends to send to the 14-day quarantine at home all those who came from Lombardy and Venice. The intensified control over tourists from Italy was announced by the authorities of Croatia and Mauritius. In Lyon, the French police stopped a bus with tourists from Milan to conduct a medical examination. In addition, a train was stopped for several hours from Venice to Austria.
The European Commission said that it does not intend to introduce enhanced control within the Schengen zone, but may later return to the discussion of this issue.
The outbreak of coronavirus, caused a sharp drop in Italian stock markets because of investors’ concerns that the epidemic could slow down the development of the third largest economy in the eurozone. The Italian stock exchange, located in the capital of Lombardy, Milan, fell by 5% on Monday (for example, shares of the Juventus football club from Turin, the capital of Piedmont, fell by more than 10%).
Empty store shelves & price gouging for medical supplies
The Italian media write that in the north of Italy in many supermarkets there is a shortage of products. The prices of some medical devices (in particular, masks, respirators and the popular Amuchina gel antiseptic) have increased significantly, indicating a “real psychosis” in Italy: for example, an antiseptic that cost €3-4, now sell for almost €30; the cost of medical masks increased by 1700% – from 10 euro cents to €1.8.
The government urged citizens to not panic and follow the recommendations of the authorities and doctors. Epidemiologists, in turn, note that treating coronavirus as a disease that is slightly more serious than seasonal flu is extremely dangerous.