By Eric J. Lyman
ROME – Italy and the United States are a examine in contrasts in relation to the approach they confronted the pandemic.
Italy was the primary nation hit laborious after the virus unfold past China’s borders and after some early missteps, the nation took decisive motion. Italy’s nationwide lockdown was the primary in Europe throughout peacetime and it was stricter and lasted longer than in different international locations. Rules have been carefully enforced by police with the facility to levy fines.
Leaders adopted the identical masks and social distancing pointers as everybody else, as Italian factories began manufacturing ventilators, masks, and different protecting gear. Whenever a cluster of circumstances emerged, the world was rapidly quarantined and the sick cared for by a free public well being system.
Most importantly, Italians overwhelmingly adopted the foundations.
“In Italy, we might have a reputation as being a nation of disorganized rule-breakers, but the truth is people tend to follow the advice of their doctors,” mentioned Giovanni Sebastiani, a researcher and member of Italy’s National Research Council. “Our lockdown was long, we only reopened in measured stages, and almost everyone did what they were supposed to do.”
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Italy, a rustic of 60 million, was the primary on this planet to have 200,000 official coronavirus circumstances (on April 28) and the primary to file 30,000 deaths (May 7). But by late May the every day an infection fee dropped from greater than 5,000 to the low triple digits – and for probably the most half, it stayed there till final month.
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Now, as is the case in most international locations in Europe, COVID-19 infections in Italy are rising once more and the nation topped 10,000 new infections on Friday, breaking its all-time every day excessive for constructive checks. The World Health Organization has warned that the virus is quickly spinning uncontrolled in Europe and the area has reached a tipping level to comprise a coronavirus second wave.
In latest days, every day an infection charges have spiked to greater than 14,000 in Spain, almost 20,000 within the U.Okay., and almost 30,000 in France – all far above their peaks from the spring. The U.S has been averaging between 50,000-60,000 circumstances per day because the begin of October, in line with the COVID Tracking Project. The U.S. has had roughly 8 million circumstances and greater than 217,000 deaths.
Still, earlier this month, German Chancellor Angela Merkel – Germany is the foremost European nation with probably the most success in limiting the unfold of the virus – warned her compatriots in opposition to taking holidays in high-risk elements of Europe. But she mentioned there was no drawback for them to journey to Italy, the place she mentioned the federal government “has acted with great prudence.”
‘Watch in disbelief’
Meanwhile, Italians shook their heads at information stories from the U.S. The politicization of mask-wearing, the uneven utility and enforcement of coronavirus guidelines from state to state, disregard for well being pointers at seashores, parks, and political rallies and the best way President Donald Trump dealt with his personal case of COVID-19 by downplaying the severity of the illness have been all troublesome for a lot of Italians to grasp.
“Italians have always looked up to the United States but what is happening now makes us watch in disbelief,” mentioned Flavio Chiapponi, a political scientist with the University of Pavia in northern Italy. “In the earliest days of the pandemic, we learned our lessons by trial and error, which is why it hit us so hard.
“We hoped other countries would learn from what we went through but that didn’t happen in many countries, including the United States,” Chiapponi mentioned.
Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte has vowed the nation wouldn’t face one other nationwide lockdown.
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“We are much more prepared now than we were in March and April,” mentioned Giorgio Palu, a professor emeritus in microbiology on the University of Padova and a previous president of the European Virology Society. “Hospitals are prepared and testing is far more widespread. We understand what we are dealing with.”
Many in Italy imagine insufficient testing within the early weeks resulted in a large under-counting of circumstances, that means charges in March and April would dwarf present charges.
This week, the federal government launched new restrictions for at-home social occasions, eating places, college actions, and even weddings. Earlier within the month, a decree handed requiring masks use even outdoors and when removed from others. The coronavirus state of emergency first put into place on Jan. 31 has now been prolonged till its one-year anniversary, giving authorities energy to rapidly lock down neighborhoods or cities when warranted.
‘We need to stick with it’
The overwhelming majority of Italians are OK with mask-wearing, in line with a survey launched through the summer time by Imperial College London. That analysis confirmed that round 85% of Italians mentioned they have been “very” or “quite” prepared to don a masks if suggested to take action, the best fee among the many European international locations surveyed.
As the an infection fee climbed beginning in September espresso bars and metropolis squares have been abuzz with the information. But cautiously optimistic residents mentioned they did not lose their religion within the authorities.
“I feel like the country’s leadership has sent a clear, united, consistent message about the coronavirus, unlike the situation back home,” mentioned Molly Gage, a mom of two who initially hails from Pittsburgh however primarily based in Rome for 13 years. “In Italy, the pandemic is treated like a public health issue, which is what it is. It’s difficult for everyone, but one thing that makes it a little easier is knowing that everything that can be done here is being done.”
Alessandra Bernero, an workplace employee who was sick with COVID-19 for 4 weeks in March and April, had an analogous view.
“When I wake up the first thing I do is look on my phone for the latest information about infections and deaths and hospitalizations,” she mentioned. “I was more relaxed a couple of months ago than I am now, but I know we are paying attention and taking the problem seriously. We have to keep it up until the virus goes away or there’s a vaccine.”