Week 4 – Under Siege – Italy and the Coronavirus Epidemic

Day 18 – Monday 9th March 2020

7,935 infected; 463 dead, 724 recovered
4,316/7,935 (54%) hospitalised; 733/7,935 (9%) in ICU
2,396 quarantined at home
NB: 9,712 = Total number of cases 

Monday’s figures showed the disease was not being contained.Compared with yesterday’s (Week 3), they show the largest daily increase since the contagion first came to light on Feb. 21.

With a marked rise in infections, even more people hospitalized in intensive care – and about 100 deaths in 24 hours, the government had to act.

For the first time in history an entire country is under lockdown quarantine. All Italians have to stay at home unless they have solid reasons related to work, health or other special needs. To make sure they do, police and Army will carry out traffic, motorway, rail and airport checks

Public meetings, gatherings or assemblies of any kind, including private parties, are banned.

Image result for italian confession box

Confessions have to be heard in the open air, with a metre distance between priest and penitent.
Comment: Shouting sins to all and sundry! What now for the much vaunted confession box secrecy!
Masses are prohibited. Funerals will consist of only a graveside prayer. Weddings are banned except for already booked registry office weddings. No guests allowed.
School and university closures have been extended until April 3.

All sporting actvities are stopped as are all court cases.
Museums, art galleries, theatres and cinemas are closed. Just like the gyms, discos, spas and pubs.

Barbers, hairdressers and beauty parlours are shut in some places and letting in only 1 customer at a time in others.

Bars, cafès and restaurants must close at 6.00 pm. Some have just closed down for the duration, sending staff home.

No shopping centres, malls and markets are open at weekends.
No driving tests or MOTs will be carried out.

Image result for italian ski resort
All ski resorts are closed,

To encourage business, some had actively been targeting young people who were not at school or university, thus potentially creating outbreak hotspots.

Government information about protecting oneself from infection and staying at home is broadcast on every TV channel during the ad breaks.

What else prompted this move to national lockdown?

Lundies who maybe didn’t understand what they were doing!

On Saturday and Sunday, thousands of people escaped before the North was partitioned to join their families or friends or move to their holiday houses elsewhere in Italy.

Image result for elba island

A spokesman from the Isle of Elba 

“I don’t know why they are all coming to their holiday houses here. We don’t even have an ICU on the island. They’ll all have to be air-lifted off when they get sick”

Aghast at the danger they had placed local citizens in, Local Health Authorities and Governors of all the Regions demanded the government counteract this potential for disease spread. Which it promptly did, decreeing the new nationwide regulations and making it a crime to disobey  them, with penalties ranging from steep fines to 3 months imprisonment. 

Day 19 – Tuesday, March 10th 2020 – After 16 hours lockdown

8,514 infected; 631 dead, 1,004 recovered
5,195 /8,514 (58%) hospitalised; 877/8514 (10%) in ICU
2,396 quarantined at home
N.B. 10,149 = total number of cases 

How are people reacting to the epidemic and lockdown?

Image result for italian emergency doctors
A frontline hospital doctor said:

“I myself watched with some amazement the reorganization of the entire hospital in the past week, when our current enemy was still in the shadows: the wards slowly “emptied”, elective activities were interrupted, intensive care were freed up to create as many beds as possible.

All this rapid transformation brought an atmosphere of silence and surreal emptiness to the corridors of the hospital that we did not yet understand, waiting for a war that was yet to begin The war has literally exploded and battles are uninterrupted day and night.The boards with the names of the patients, of different colours depending on the operating unit, are now all red and instead of surgery you see the diagnosis, which is always the damned same: bilateral interstitial pneumonia.

The epidemiological disaster is taking place. Cases are multiplying, we arrive at a rate of 15-20 admissions per day all for the same reason. And there are no more surgeons, urologists, orthopedists, we are only doctors who suddenly become part of a single team to face this tsunami that has overwhelmed us.

There are no more shifts, no more hours. Social life is suspended for us. We no longer see our families for fear of infecting them. Some of us have already become infected despite the protocols. Some of our colleagues who are infected also have infected relatives and some of their relatives are already struggling between life and death.

So be patient, you can’t go to the theatre, museums or the gym. We just try to make ourselves useful. You should do the same: we influence the life and death of a few dozen people. You with yours, many more.”

Image result for italian emergency doctors
There was a revolt in 27 prisons

Prisoners objected to an Coronavirus-related order to stop visits Overcrowding is another perennial issue. Given the epidemic, prisoners felt they were totally exposed to contagion. The government has contained the revolt and is setting up triage tents in prison yards to identify the infected.

Image result for luisa spagnoli fashion

Italian chain stores closed spontaneously 

to display their sense of civic responsibility, prevent “gatherings of people”,  protect their sales staff and hopefully increase online sales, with some even offering free deliveries.Decathlon, the French sportswear chain, also closed its shops throughout Italy. About 50% of shops are closed in Milan.

People were panic buying in several cities, including Rome.

Image result for conte, Italian PM

After announcing the national lockdown, Giuseppe Conte, Italian PM had to make another speech to the nation an hour later

He said crowds in supermarkets defeated the purpose of the decree which was to prohibit any sort of people gathering together for any reason. He reassured them the shops would be well supplied and staying open. People could go out and do their daily or weekly shop. He reminded them that crowding together was now against the law

The mood is a sort of stunned silence,

People really can’t believe what’s happened to them, their lifestyle and society in a bare 3 weeks. They  desperately search through the internet for masks. They  take lifts one at a time, instead of 2 or 3 together, to maintain their distances. Even in apartment blocks with their neighbours that they’ve known for years.

They keep their distance when queuing,

There is certainly less traffic about. Very few individuals out walking about town.Whoever has a mask, wears it. Shops look empty.

Supermarkets and other shops  taped out metre squares on their floors to ensure customers keep their distance.

A large building supply firm put the new regulations into force – tape on floor, administrative staff told to work from home. The other 80 workers are terrified they’ll lose their jobs because no orders or customers are coming in.

Query: How would you like to live under these circumstances?

What next?
Further measures (which could be coming down the line, even as soon as tomorrow)  include stopping all public transport and closing down all workplaces except utilities, food shops, chemists and essential supply lines.

Image result for no answers

Will the infection and death  rates  drop due to lockdown, warmer Spring temperatures or because the epidemic has run its course?

When should lockdown be lifted?

What’s the risk of resurgence once it’s lifted? 
Will a second wave of CoVid19  occur in the autumn?

Do you, in other EU countries, realise you are just 10-14 days behind Italy in disease spread?

What are your governments learning from Italy?

What are you doing to protect yourselves and your families?




4 thoughts on “Week 4 – Under Siege – Italy and the Coronavirus Epidemic

  1. Thank you Ben for the stats. Laid out, as you have, showing the chronology and the rate of increase of the contagion, it is easy to see why this outbreak can overwhelm the health services.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Time and data will tell but It looks to me that the death and possibly also hospitalising percentage is higher, if the virus has a week or two to spread unchecked in the community, unnoticed by the health authorities. This was the suspicion in Italy, that the virus had been in the community for some time before the health officials took action. This appears to be the case in the US, where a slow recognition of the problem has allowed death percentages around 4%, similar to Italy, to be recorded.

    I have been listening to the US reports, waiting for the virus to show up and wondering how the US will cope, I didn’t have long to wait. Having health sectors in each state instead of a health system will add complications to bringing about virus containment measures. The next phase, delay, will that be a federal issue?

    Health in the US is a huge cost, 18% of GDP (W.H.O.) compared with around 10% across Europe and around 7,8% for the UK. People and companies paying big monthly sums for health insurance could get mightily miffed if they cannot get immediate healthcare for themselves and family, when they need it, due to the hispitals being overwhelmed. The more miffed if it is perceived the overwhelming is due to the poor?


  3. yes indeed, Gordon. I think the epidemic in the US will be very bad,for several reasons.

    In the first place, due to delays in testing.The CDC allegedly tried to set up a complicated test searching for all CoVid19 variants which was not suitable for mass screening and unsurprisingly, failed to work properly. New simpler tests are now being manufactured and distributed free AFAIK but the delay must have had an impact.

    Add in, as you said, a totally decentralised healthcare system with each State free to operate as it deems fit and therefore no nationwide policies – apart from stopping flights to the EU but not Ireland and the UK.Are we ready for Americans self-isolating for two weeks in our hotels before they move on to the EU?

    Apart from the insurance business, lots of Americans have no health insurance or work contracts with paid holidays and sick leave. If staying at home involves a decision about having enough money to feed themselves and their families, they are unlikely to self-isolate if they feel unwell or could be an asyptomatic disease carrier. They’ll carry on regardless.

    Liked by 1 person

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