In a new video shared on Friday, the WHO presented Italy as a successful case study for tackling Covid-19 – even as the country recorded its highest number of new cases since lockdown ended.
“Italy showed the epidemic's trajectory could be turned around through commitment, coordination and communication across government and communities, a resilient public health system and by following a science-based response,” the UN's health agency said.
It interviewed Italian public health experts about how they activated monitoring systems, sought advice from specialists, and took decisive measures to limit freedom of movement around Italy in the early stages of the pandemic – steps that would later be adopted by other countries around Europe.
“We had to be icebreakers in finding a path of how to respond and we had to find it fast, because there was no time,” recalled Flavia Riccardi, a researcher at the Italian National Institute of Health's Department of Infectious Diseases.
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As many of its neighbours battle a second wave of infections, Italy has emerged as a positive outlier.
Despite localised outbreaks, it hasn't seen the surge in cases recorded in Spain, France or some other European countries.
Factors credited for its success include the centralised testing-and-tracing system developed by the public health service, robust rules on face masks, and a lockdown that was early, strict and long.
But Italian Health Minister Roberto Speranza warned that Italy wasn't out of danger yet, tweeting as he shared the WHO's video: “We still have a long way to go. Let's keep our feet on the ground. We absolutely must not render the sacrifices made up to now useless.”
Italy reported 1,912 new infections on Friday, its highest daily increase since lockdown restrictions were phased out in June. The tally was up from 1,786 the day before, when Italy conducted a record number of swab tests: 108,000 in 24 hours.
Many new cases are mild or asymptomatic, with the vast majority of patients in quarantine at home. Both the number of deaths (20) and the number of people in intensive care (244) fell slightly on Friday.
Watch the WHO's video about Italy's Covid-19 response below.