Why Is Italy Affected By Covid-19 More Than Other European Countries?

By Elena Cortesi on March 13 2020 in Society

COVID-19 has been confirmed in all regions of Italy. Photo by CDC on Unsplash
COVID-19 has been confirmed in all regions of Italy. Photo by CDC on Unsplash
  • The first documented case in Italy of COVID-19 was found in Codogno, Lombardy.
  • The lockdown protocol currently in effect in Italy is scheduled to be reevaluated on April 3, 2020.
  • As of March 12, 2020 in Italy, 85% of COVID-19 cases have been identified in the regions of Lombardy, Veneto, and Emilia-Romagna.

With over 15,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 found across the country of Italy and over 1,000 deaths, this iconic country is the most affected country in the world outside of China as of March 12, 2020. The question remains, why has Italy been affected by this virus more than other European countries? Is there a clear answer to this question? There are several factors to consider when evaluating this question that many people have been asking themselves for weeks.  

First Case

The first documented case of the Coronavirus was reported on February 20, 2020, in a town called Codogno, found in the region of Lombardy. A 38-year-old man voluntarily checked himself into a local hospital with flu-like symptoms on that infamous day. After being tested, this gentleman was considered to be patient one in Italy. The origin of his contamination is still unknown therefore, to date, patient zero is yet to be identified.  Medical experts believe that although this is recorded as the first official case in Italy, the virus is thought to have been in existence for some time prior to this day, undetected. 

Flu Season

During the month of February, Italy was in the peak of its seasonal influenza season and as such, many people experienced flu-like symptoms and subsequently recovered, and therefore went possibly undetected in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, countless others may have been infected before medical personnel could get a handle on the situation and therefore necessary precautions were not implemented in an effort to contain the virus. How can you implement measures when you don't know that you're dealing with a new virus? It was only after a strangely high number of patients with pneumonia surfaced in Codogno that the facts were pieced together and the Coronavirus was discovered through testing, and its existence in Codogno was subsequently confirmed.

This is a pliable theory and possible explanation as to the why and how Italy has been affected so greatly by the Coronavirus and its extensive spreading across the country. Today in Italy, COVID-19 has been confirmed in all regions of the country. However, 85% of the cases have been identified in the regions of Lombardy, Veneto, and Emilia-Romagna. Out of over 1,000 deaths in the country, 92% of the deaths have occurred in these three neighboring regions so far.

Spread Through Travel

The reality also is that there are over 60,000,000 citizens nation-wide in Italy, and travel from one region to the next occurs frequently for various reasons, primarily, weekend getaways and cultural and sporting events. Culturally, Italians are known for their love for life and frequent celebrations and they are known to gather socially often.  The typical Italian greeting consists of a firm handshake, a double kiss, and a hug. For a virus of this nature, this social behavior is a haven for breeding. 

The response from the governing bodies across the country, once COVID-19 was identified and the imminent threat to all citizens was grasped, was quick, concise, and firm.  Plans of actions were immediately implemented and enforced to ensure that the virus did not continue to spread with such speed and force.  Confirmed cases of the Coronavirus are still growing exponentially in Italy because it will take several days, possibly weeks, for the drastic lockdown and other measures that have been put in place, to reflect its effects in real-time.  

“We all must give something up for the good of Italy,” is a direct quote from Italy's Prime Minister, Giuseppe Conte, as he addressed the nation this past week with respect to the nation-wide lockdown in response to the growing threat the Coronavirus brought to Italy. “There is no more time,” he continued.  

Essential Services

Currently, only essential services are operational in Italy including grocery stores, some banks, pharmacies, and select medical facilities. All stores, restaurants, hotels, bars, gyms, theatres, stadiums, museums, churches, and all other public venues are currently closed. Some offices are still operating with a skeleton staff.  Hospital staff is emploring citizens to avoid coming to seek medical treatment unless it is an absolute emergency.  Hospitals across the country are not equipped to handle patients because of all the COVID-19 victims that need to be treated.  The police, military police, and the Italian army are present in most cities and towns to ensure the safety and security of its citizens are met.  People are confined to their homes and are only allowed to leave out of necessity and are subsequently mandated to return home immediately after they're done.  No one is allowed to be out past 6:00 pm. 

Economic Impact 

The economic consequences of this nationwide lockdown are said to be currently immeasurable but certainly catastrophic. The situation in Italy is constantly being monitored and evaluated and on April 3, 2020 updates to this current situation will be given from the Prime Minister. At that point, new decrees will be revealed of what courses of action will be taken from that point onward. The reality is that in Italy and across the globe the effects of the Coronavirus change so very often and new mandates are implemented, sometimes hourly. As the European country identified with the most COVID-19 cases, Italy is being closely watched and analyzed to ensure that all possible precautions will continue to be taken to slow down and ultimately stop the spread of this ugly virus. 

Stay Safe

Now that there is a clear identification of the magnitude of the effects of the Coronavirus, Italy has proven to be a great example of how to act and react to the threat that the virus has created for its citizens, for the neighboring European countries, and ultimately, the world. It is unclear what the following days, weeks and months will look like in Italy and the rest of the world. We must continue to stay strong, be vigilant and follow the recommended and enforced protocols implemented for our safety and for the safety of everyone.

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