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HEALTH

Naples residents donate coronavirus tests amid shortage

With a lack of free coronavirus tests available in the city of Naples, hundreds of residents are relying on the kindness of strangers.

Naples residents donate coronavirus tests amid shortage
Volunteers at the San Severo Fuori Le Mura church in the Rione Sanita district in Naples on November 23rd. AFP

Naples is proud of its tradition of “caffe sospeso”, where a customer pays twice for a coffee so that someone less fortunate can have one for free. Now this act of charity is being extended to coronavirus tests.

In the southern Italian city, the local health service is struggling to deal with the number of coronavirus cases and, as in many parts of italy, free coronavirus tests can be difficult to get..

At San Severo Fuori Le Mura church, in one of the most densely-populated areas of Naples, a local community organisation offers residents a chance to get a
rapid swab test and anonymously donate another.

“It's a high-risk area, because there are large family groups living in very small places, so the risk of contagion is very high,” said Angelo Melone,
head of the non-profit group that runs the initiative.

Photo: Andreas Solaro/AFP

Since they started two weeks ago, 1,000 people have been tested – 300 of them benefitting from the generosity of their fellow citizens.

“We Neapolitans have a big heart, in good and in bad times we share everything,” said local resident Giuseppina Puglise, after paying for an extra swab.

The pre-booked tests cost 18 euros ($21) each and are carried out by a team of three doctors and two nurses within the airy confines of the 16th-century
church.

The money pays for the swabs themselves and the nurses, with the others volunteering for free.

Rapid tests are readily available across Italy, the first European country to be hit by the coronavirus, where it has now recorded more than 50,000 deaths.

But they can be expensive. Such a test in a private clinic in Naples can cost between 30 and 45 euros, while a more accurate PCR test can cost 70 euros.

Photo: Andreas Solaro/AFP

Antonio Campagna, a 33-year-old taxi driver with three children, has struggled in the economic crisis provoked by Italy's national lockdown earlier this year.

“I heard that there was the possibility of a free test,” he told AFP. “I would like to take advantage of this initiative, which I consider an act full of altruism.”

Italy's economy has been battered by the pandemic, and the poorer southern regions are suffering particularly badly.

Unemployment in Naples last year was already double the national average, at 23.3 percent compared to 10 percent, according to national statistics agency Istat.

Locals here feel a sense of solidarity as they face up to the inevitable tough times ahead.

After paying for an extra test, Luigi Parisi, a 32-year-old from Naples, said that helping others less fortunate was now “a civil and moral duty”.

Member comments

  1. There are many reasons I love going to Naples and the people are one of them. Have always found them helpful, warm and friendly. This is further evidence of their sense of community. Always feel very sad when Naples gets bad press, which happens way too often. Tourists don’t know what they are missing out on with bypassing this wonderful piece of Italy.

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COVID-19 VACCINES

Italy’s deputy health minister under fire after casting doubt on Covid vaccines

Opposition leaders called for health undersecretary Marcello Gemmato to resign on Tuesday after the official said he was not "for or against" vaccines.

Italy's deputy health minister under fire after casting doubt on Covid vaccines

Gemmato, a pharmacist and member of Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni’s far-right Brothers of Italy party, made the remark during an appearance on the political talkshow ReStart on Rai 2 on Monday evening.

READ ALSO: Covid vaccines halved Italy’s death toll, study finds

In a widely-shared clip, the official criticises the previous government’s approach to the Covid pandemic, claiming that for a large part of the crisis Italy had the highest death rate and third highest ‘lethality’ rate (the proportion of Covid patients who died of the disease).

When journalist Aldo Cazzullo interjects to ask whether the toll would have been higher without vaccines, Gemmato responds: “that’s what you say,” and claimed: “We do not have the reverse burden of proof.”

The undersecretary goes on to say that he won’t “fall into the trap of taking a side for or against vaccines”.

After Gemmato’s comments, the president of Italy’s National Federation of Medical Guilds, Filippo Anelli, stressed that official figures showed the Italian vaccination campaign had already prevented some 150,000 deaths, slashing the country’s potential death toll by almost half.

Vaccines also prevented eight million cases of Covid-19, over 500,000 hospitalisations, and more than 55,000 admissions to intensive care, according to a report from Italy’s national health institute (ISS) in April 2021.

Gemmato’s comments provoked calls for him to step down, including from the head of the centre-left Democratic Party, Enrico Letta.

“A health undersecretary who doesn’t take his distance from no-vaxxers is certainly in the wrong job” wrote the leader of the centrist party Action, Carlo Calenda, on Twitter.

Infectious disease expert Matteo Bassetti of Genoa’s San Martino clinic also expressed shock.

“How is it possible to say that there is no scientific proof that vaccines have helped save the lives of millions of people? You just have to read the scientific literature,” Bassetti tweeted. 

In response to the backlash, Gemmato on Tuesday put out a statement saying he believes “vaccines are precious weapons against Covid” and claiming that his words were taken out of context and misused against him.

The Brothers of Italy party was harshly critical of the previous government’s approach to handling the Covid crisis, accusing the former government of using the pandemic as an excuse to “limit freedom” through its use of the ‘green pass’, a proof of vaccination required to access public spaces. 

But since coming into power, Meloni appears to have significantly softened her stance.

Her appointee for health minister, Orazio Schillaci, is a medical doctor who formed part of the team advising the Draghi administration on its handling of the pandemic.

Schillaci, a former dean of the Faculty of Medicine and Surgery at Rome’s Tor Vergata University, has described the former government’s green pass scheme as an “indispensable tool for guaranteeing safety in university classrooms”.

Speaking at a session of the G20 on Tuesday, Meloni referenced the role of vaccines in bringing an end to the Covid pandemic.

“Thanks to the extraordinary work of health personnel, vaccines, prevention, and the accountability of citizens, life has gradually returned to normal,’ the prime minister said in a speech.

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