‘Learn from our mistakes’: Italians plead for other countries to take coronavirus risks seriously

As in other countries, some people in Italy downplayed the seriousness of the coronavirus when it was first detected in the country. But after a major outbreak prompted the government to impose lockdown, all that has changed.

'Learn from our mistakes': Italians plead for other countries to take coronavirus risks seriously
Some of Italy's best hospitals are now being pushed to the brink by the coronavirus crisis. Photo: AFP

Now, many Italians are taking to social media to warn the rest of the world to learn from their mistakes before it's too late.

Italians from all backgrounds have urged others to stop underestimating a disease which is stretching northern Italy's healthcare system to the limit.

“I want to warn you so that you don't face what we are facing here,” Italian blogger Marco Cartasegna told his 386,500 followers on Instagram.

“Please take advantage of our example and act now to prevent a huge crisis in your countries,” he said.

“Protect yourselves, I beg you. Don't listen to those who say it's not serious,” Italian mother Linda Maresca wrote on Twiitter.

While Italy has been battling the outbreak for nearly a month, and now has over 31,000 cases and more than 2,500 victims, other countries have only recently been forced into taking action.

France and Spain have recently imposed lockdowns, while Belgium and Germany have ordered their citizens to stay at home, but others like Britain and the US have faced criticism for delaying anti-coronavirus measures.

READ ALSO: 'Stay at home': Italy's new coronavirus quarantine rules explained

While Italy imposed a localised lockdown immediately after its first deaths, people outside of the “red zone” carried on going to bars and discos, eating meals at crowded restaurants, and hugging and kissing each other despite government advice telling them to limit social contact.

As reality hit home, Italians watched in horror as some in other countries shrugged it off as “just a case of the flu” – as some in Italy had done weeks earlier.

“For other countries affected by COVID-19: Your hospitals won't hold. Your doctors will be exhausted,” Twitter user Lylion wrote on Wednesday.

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

The president of the European Commission admitted Wednesday that political leaders in the EU had “underestimated” the magnitude of the danger posed by the coronavirus.

 “My Italian friends and colleagues (who work abroad) agree”, tweeted user David Giovinazzo, who was currently in Italy but said he worked at the EU's diplomatic service in Brussels.

“Paradoxically, we feel safer in Italy at the moment,” he said.

Many of The Local's readers have also commented that they feel safer in Italy than they would back home in the UK or US.

Top Italian health expert Nino Cartabellota told The Local in a recent interview that other countries should follow Italy's lead – immediately.

The data shows that the majority of European countries are about to face a battle identical to the Italian one. The surge in cases in France, Germany and Spain follows the same trend as in Italy. It's just 7-8 days behind.”

The more promptly containment measures are implemented, the more effective they are,” he added. Considering this, it's necessary to act immediately, because tomorrow will already be late.”

“Other European countries should learn from Italy's experience – and mistakes.”

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Covid-19: Are Italian live events at risk of being postponed?

As the infection rate rises sharply across the country, Italian virologists are calling for concerts and festivals to be rescheduled.

Covid-19: Are Italian live events at risk of being postponed?

Italy has seen a large increase in the number of Covid-19 cases in recent days, so much so that a number of virologists across the country are now urging the government to postpone major live events in a bid to curb infections. 

According to a new report by Italy’s independent health watchdog, the Gimbe Foundation, 595,349 new cases were recorded in the week from June 29th to July 5th; a worrying 55 percent increase on the previous week. 

In the same time span, the country also registered a 32.8 percent rise in the number of hospitalised patients, which went from 6,035 to 8,003.  

The latest Covid wave, which is being driven by the highly contagious Omicron 5 variant, is a “real cause for concern”, especially in terms of a “potential patient overload”, said Nino Cartabellotta, president of the Gimbe Foundation. 

As Italian cities prepare to host a packed calendar of concerts and festivals this summer, health experts are questioning whether such events should actually take place given the high risk of transmission associated with mass gatherings.

READ ALSO: What tourists in Italy need to know if they get Covid-19

“Rescheduling these types of events would be the best thing to do right now,” said Massimo Ciccozzi, Director of Epidemiology at Campus Bio-Medico University of Rome. 

The summer wave is expected to peak in mid-July but, Ciccozzi warns, the upcoming live events might “delay [the peak] until the end of July or even beyond” and extend the infection curve.

Antonello Maruotti, Professor of Statistics at LUMSA University of Rome, recently shared Ciccozzi’s concerns, saying that live events as big as Maneskin’s scheduled Rome concert are “definitely not a good idea”. 

The Italian rock band are slated to perform at the Circus Maximus on Saturday, July 9th but the expected turnout – over 70,000 fans are set to attend the event – has raised objections from an array of Italian doctors, with some warning that the concert might cause as many as 20,000 new cases.

If it were to materialise, the prospected scenario would significantly aggravate Lazio’s present medical predicament as there are currently over 186,000 Covid cases in the region (nearly 800 patients are receiving treatment in local hospitals). 

Italian rock band Maneskin performing in Turin

Italian rock band Maneskin are expected to perform at the Circus Maximus in Rome on Saturday, July 9th. Photo by Marco BERTORELLO / AFP

But, despite pleas to postpone the event, it is likely that Maneskin’s concert will take place as scheduled.

Alessandro Onorato, Rome’s Tourism Councillor, said that rescheduling is “out of question” and that “all recommendations from the local medical authorities will be adopted” with the help of the event’s organisers and staff on the ground.

At the time of writing, there is also no indication that the Italian government will consider postponing other major live events scheduled to take place in the coming weeks, though the situation is evolving rapidly and a U-turn on previous dispositions can’t be ruled out.

READ ALSO: At a glance: What are the Covid-19 rules in Italy now?

On this note, it is worth mentioning that Italy has now scrapped all of its former Covid measures except the requirement to wear FFP2 face masks on public transport (though not on planes) and in healthcare settings.

The use of face coverings is, however, still recommended in all crowded areas, including outdoors – exactly the point that leading Italian doctors are stressing in the hope that live events will not lead to large-scale infection.

Antonio Magi, President of Rome’s OMCEO (College of Doctors, Surgeons and Dentists), said: “Our advice is to wear FFP2 masks […] in high-risk situations.”

“I hope that young people will heed our recommendations and think about the health risks that their parents or grandparents might be exposed to after the event [they attend].”