Inside Brescia, one of Italy’s coronavirus epicentres

Situated in the heart of Italy's hard-hit Lombardy region, at the foot of the Alps, Brescia saw the highest daily rise in case numbers on Tuesday, compared to the rest of the country.

Inside Brescia, one of Italy's coronavirus epicentres
ALL Photos: AFP

The 382 new cases brought the total number of infected to 3,300.

“Our facility now hosts over 300 coronavirus patients, 51 of whom are in intensive care,” Alessandro Triboldi, director of the Poliambulanza hospital, told AFP, as exhausted doctors checked patients' vital signs.

READ ALSO: 'Hospitals are overwhelmed': Italian doctors describe their struggle to treat Lombardy's coronavirus patients

Gurneys are wheeled quickly and quietly down the corridors by nurses in protective gear, covered almost head to toe, only their necks and ears exposed.

Machines emit two or three-toned beeps as staff help the newly-arrived patients, wrapped in gold foil emergency blankets, off the gurneys and into  beds.

The sickest lie intubated, drips feeding medicine directly into their veins, their torsos and legs bare.

“There are people who come from home to the accident and emergency room and are already in very serious conditions,” said Giuseppe Natalini, the hospital's head of intensive care.

“They are unable to breathe, are wheezing and have no oxygen in their blood, so they need to be treated quickly”.

'Weigh their chances'

The coronavirus epidemic began in Italy's Lombardy region, where more than 16,000 people are currently infected and some 1,640 people have died.

While nearby Bergamo has the highest number of cases, the virus appears to be spreading faster in Brescia.

The city is on high alert. Everyone is scanned on arrival at the Poliambulanza, to check their body temperature.

Freshly made beds line the corridors, waiting for the next wave of patients.

The hospital is caring for people of all ages, but “the elderly and those with pre-existing conditions are the ones who get seriously ill.

“These are the patients who cannot make it,” department of medicine head Tony Sabatini said.

As ambulances screech to a halt outside, sirens blazing, the sheer number of patients is forcing doctors to decide which cases are worth pursuing.

“Sometimes you have to weigh the chances of success against the patient's condition,” A&E head Paolo Terragnoli said, his plastic protective googles pushed up onto his forehead, and his head bowed.

“We try to do our best for everyone, while doing an extra something for those who have better chances.”

Beyond the hospital's sleek white and grey walls, the virus continued its silent and invisible rampage across the Brescia province.

An old people's home in Quinzano said Wednesday some 18 of its residents had died since the beginning of the outbreak, including five in the past 24 hours.

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.


Covid face mask rule on flights in Europe set to be eased

The mandatory EU-wide mask requirement for air travel is set to be dropped from Monday, May 16th, but airlines may still require passengers to wear masks on some or all flights

Covid face mask rule on flights in Europe set to be eased

Europe-wide facemask rules on flights are set to be ditched as early as next week in light of new recommendations from health and air safety experts.

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) dropped recommendations for mandatory mask-wearing in airports and during flights in updated Covid-19 safety measures for travel issued on Wednesday, May 11th.

The new rules are expected to be rolled out from Monday, May 16th, but airlines may still continue to require the wearing of masks on some or all of flights. And the updated health safety measures still say that wearing a face mask remains one of the best ways to protect against the transmission of the virus.

The joint EASA/ECDC statement reminded travellers that masks may still be required on flights to destinations in certain countries that still require the wearing of masks on public transport and in transport hubs.

It also recommends that vulnerable passengers should continue to wear a face mask regardless of the rules, ideally an FFP2/N95/KN95 type mask which offers a higher level of protection than a standard surgical mask.

“From next week, face masks will no longer need to be mandatory in air travel in all cases, broadly aligning with the changing requirements of national authorities across Europe for public transport,” EASA executive director Patrick Ky said in the statement. 

“For passengers and air crews, this is a big step forward in the normalisation of air travel. Passengers should however behave responsibly and respect the choices of others around them. And a passenger who is coughing and sneezing should strongly consider wearing a face mask, for the reassurance of those seated nearby.”  

ECDC director Andrea Ammon added: “The development and continuous updates to the Aviation Health Safety Protocol in light of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic have given travellers and aviation personnel better knowledge of the risks of transmission of SARS-CoV-2 and its variants. 

“While risks do remain, we have seen that non-pharmaceutical interventions and vaccines have allowed our lives to begin to return to normal. 

“While mandatory mask-wearing in all situations is no longer recommended, it is important to be mindful that together with physical distancing and good hand hygiene it is one of the best methods of reducing transmission. 

“The rules and requirements of departure and destination states should be respected and applied consistently, and travel operators should take care to inform passengers of any required measures in a timely manner.”