Italy is grappling with the coronavirus disease pandemic, which has ravaged the country since February. In just a month, the number of cases has reached more than 35,000. Over the past 24 hours, Italy has reported 475 additional deaths, increasing the death toll to a staggering 2,978, a few numbers away from Hubei Province’s toll, the epicenter of the pandemic where the virus originated.
The new record is the highest jump in coronavirus-related deaths of any nation since the outbreak started. In China, the highest death toll recorded its highest single-day death toll of 150 on Feb. 23.
Confirmed cases in Italy now stands at 35,713, up by 13 percent from the previous day. Currently, there are 28,710 infected people, 14,363 of whom are hospitalized with symptoms, 2,257 are in intensive care, while 12,090 isolated in their homes.
Italy is still in very much lockdown, being the first Western country to impose severe restrictions on movement to contain the illness, but was it too late?
Coronavirus impact, empty downtown street Turin, Italy - March 2020. Image Credit: MikeDotta / Shutterstock
Was the lockdown too late?
Italy imposed the first lockdowns around Feb. 21, spanning eleven municipalities in Lombardy, the northern region of the country. About 50,000 people have been affected. Though residents were still allowed to leave their homes to purchase food and medicine, the government has closed schools and workplaces, while mass gatherings were not allowed.
During this time, the number of confirmed cases surpassed 1,000, and there were 29 deaths. A week after the initial lockdowns, on Mar. 8, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe declared a lockdown of entire northern Italy, affecting 16 million residents.
Despite the lockdown, which involved banning events and funerals, and imposing social distancing, people were allowed to travel through trains and planes, as long as they have a proof for work needs, health reasons, and emergencies. Tourists in the region were still allowed to leave the area.
The next day, however, Italy announced a total lockdown of the entire country due to the rapid spread of the virus even in other regions. The country had reported nearly 6,000 cases at that time, and it has ballooned overwhelming the healthcare system. Today, hospitals and intensive care units cannot accommodate all the sick people and are having to choose which patients need the care the most.
The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic has rippled across the world, affecting 157 of 195 countries, and touching all continents but Antarctica.
“More than 200,000 cases of COVID-19 have been reported to WHO, and more nearly 9,000 people have lost their lives. More than 80% of all cases are from two regions – the Western Pacific and Europe. We know that many countries now face escalating epidemics and are feeling overwhelmed,” Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO’s director-general, said in a statement.
So far, there are 218,809 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 8,810 deaths related to the viral infection. Italy has the greatest number of cases outside China, followed by Iran with 17,361 cases, Spain with 14,769 cases, Germany with 12,327 cases, the United States with 9,410 cases, France with 9,0524 cases, and South Korea with 8,565 cases.
Other European countries trail behind with thousands of infections, making the continent the new epicenter of the outbreak.
To stem the ongoing vast spread of the virus, the WHO emphasizes the importance of precautionary measures against the virus. It is essential never to assume one’s community or country won’t be affected.
“Don’t assume your community won’t be affected. Prepare as if it will be. Don’t assume you won’t be infected. Prepare as if you will be. But, there is hope. There are many things all countries can do,” Dr. Tedros urged.
He said that physical distancing or social distancing measures might help reduce the transmission of the virus, which include canceling significant events such as concerts, large gatherings, sporting events, weddings, and parties. Further, school closures may also help reduce the virus spread.
All these measures can reduce the burden on the health system. Further, the WHO added that in order to suppress and control epidemics, countries should isolate, test, treat, and trace.
“WHO continues to recommend that isolating, testing and treating every suspected case, and tracing every contact, must be the backbone of the response in every country. This is the best hope of preventing widespread community transmission,” he added.