SHARE
COPY LINK

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.

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

MONKEYPOX

Semen ‘a vehicle’ for monkeypox infection, say Italian health experts

Researchers in Italy who were first to identify the presence of monkeypox in semen are broadening their testing, saying early results suggest sperm can transmit infection.

Semen 'a vehicle' for monkeypox infection, say Italian health experts

A team at Rome’s Spallanzani Hospital, which specialises in infectious diseases, revealed in a study published on June 2nd that the virus DNA was detected in semen of three out of four men diagnosed with monkeypox.

They have since expanded their work, according to director Francesco Vaia, who said researchers have found the presence of monkeypox in the sperm of 14 infected men out of 16 studied.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How is Italy dealing with rising monkeypox cases?

“This finding tells us that the presence of the virus in sperm is not a rare or random occurrence,” Vaia told AFP in an interview.

He added: “The infection can be transmitted during sexual intercourse by direct contact with skin lesions, but our study shows that semen can also be a vehicle for infection.”

Researchers at Spallanzani identified Italy’s first cases of monkeypox, found in two men who had recently returned from the Canary Islands.

The latest results reported by Vaia have not yet been published or subject to peer review.

Since early May, a surge of monkeypox cases has been detected outside of the West and Central African countries where the disease has long been endemic. Most of the new cases have been in Western Europe.

More than 3,400 confirmed cases and one death have now been reported to the World Health Organisation from more than 50 countries this year.

The vast majority of cases so far have been observed in men who have sex with men, of young age, chiefly in urban areas, in “clustered social and sexual networks”, according to the WHO.

It is investigating cases of semen testing positive for monkeypox, but has maintained the virus is primarily spread through close contact.

Meg Doherty, director of the WHO’s global HIV, hepatitis and sexually-transmitted infection programmes, said last week: “We are not calling this a sexually-transmitted infection.”

Could antivirals curb the spread of monkeypox?

Spallanzani researchers are now trying to ascertain how long the virus is present in sperm after the onset of symptoms.

In one patient, virus DNA was detected three weeks after symptoms first appeared, even after lesions had disappeared – a phenomenon Vaia said had been seen in the past in viral infections such as Zika.

That could indicate that the risk of transmission of monkeypox could be lowered by the use of condoms in the weeks after recovery, he said.

The Spallanzani team is also looking at vaginal secretions to study the presence of the virus.

A significant finding from the first study was that when the virus was cultured in the lab, it was “present in semen as a live, infectious virus efficient in reproducing itself”, Vaia told AFP.

Vaia cautioned that there remained many unanswered questions on monkeypox, including whether antiviral therapies could shorten the time in which people with the virus could infect others.

Another is whether the smallpox vaccine could protect people from the monkeypox virus.

“To study this we will analyse people who were vaccinated 40 years ago before human smallpox was declared to have disappeared,” Vaia said.

SHOW COMMENTS