Italy: 627 reported dead from coronavirus, number of confirmed cases jumps by 15 percent
03/22/2020 / By Arsenio Toledo / Comments
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Italy: 627 reported dead from coronavirus, number of confirmed cases jumps by 15 percent

Just one day after its total number of COVID-19 deaths surpassed that of China’s, Italy announced what looked to be the highest number of coronavirus deaths to be reported in a single day: 627.

In addition, the Mediterranean nation’s number of infections jumped by 15 percent, with the total number of confirmed cases now pegged at 47,021.

As of press time, Italy has 4,032 reported deaths due to the coronavirus, while China?—excluding Macao and Hong Kong?—with a population of over 1.4 billion people, only has 3,255 COVID-19 deaths.

In response to this massive death toll, the Italian government has called in the support of its armed forces, in order to help with the enforcement of rules related to the country’s strict national lockdown.

“[The request to use the army] has been accepted… and 114 soldiers will be on the ground throughout Lombardy… it is still too little, but it is positive,” said Attilio Fontana, regional president of Lombardy. This northern region is the hardest-hit region in Italy and where the outbreak began. “Unfortunately we are not seeing a change of trend in the numbers, which are rising.” Up until this point, the Italian army had been deployed to act as general security units. (Related: So many coronavirus deaths in Italy that the government has to call in the ARMY to haul away all the bodies in truck convoys.)

Fontana’s decision was influenced by a Chinese delegation of medical experts who are currently helping Italy deal with their coronavirus crisis. They said that the restrictions on movement were “not strict enough.”

Minister for Education Lucia Azzolina even believes that the government might extend the length of school closures beyond the set date of April 3, adding that schools would most likely reopen once the government is “certain of absolute safety.”

Officials have stated that the country’s current school year is considered complete and that students will either graduate or move on to the next year as usual.

Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera quoted Prime Minister Guiseppe Conte on Thursday as saying that the measures to tackle the pandemic in Italy, “both the one that has closed a lot of the country’s businesses and individual activities, and the one that concerns the school, can only be extended to the deadline.”

Officials all over northern Italy meanwhile, have been pleading with Conte’s government to enact tougher quarantine measures, even at the expense of the country’s flagging economy, such as extending the lockdown and deploying more law enforcement agents to enforce its regulations more strictly. Northern Italy accounts for the lion’s share of Italy’s gross domestic product.

According to Luciana Lamorgese, the Minister of Interior, police performed checks on more than one million Italians between March 11 and March 17 and found that nearly 50,000 people had violated the lockdown. The rules of the national lockdown include restrictions on the freedom of movement and a near-complete ban on all businesses except for essential services such as groceries, pharmacies and gas stations.

Conte’s spokesperson further told reporters that while the Prime Minister’s cabinet is heavily considering extending the country’s national lockdown, no official decision has been made yet.

Situation in the Lombardy region continues to deteriorate

Lombardy has borne the brunt of Italy’s coronavirus outbreak. As of Friday, the Lombardy region alone has 22, 264 total cases, including 2,549 deaths. This represents nearly half of the country’s confirmed number of cases.

Daniela Confalonieri, an Italian nurse working in a hospital in Milan, the capital of Lombardy, said in an emotional video that the situation in her hospital was so out of control that they weren’t even counting the dead anymore.

“We’re working in a state of very high stress and tension,” said Confalonieri to a reporter from Reuters. “Unfortunately we can’t contain the situation in Lombardy, because there’s a high level of contagion.”

By the end of Confalonieri’s video, she begged the world to take the pandemic more seriously. “Look at the news that’s coming out of Italy, and take note of what the situation really is like. It’s unimaginable.”

Stefano Magnone, a frontline doctor in Bergamo, another city in Lombardy, told reporters that their hospital is unable to handle the amount of patients coming into the hospital. They have resorted to sending patients who need the most care to other parts of the country because they have run out of space to house them. He said that the hospital sent 50 patients south, to less-affected regions of Italy. Less than half of the patients that were relocated had COVID-19.

Giorgio Gori, mayor of Bergamo, announced on Thursday plans to build an emergency field hospital in the city to help local authorities manage the situation. The province of Brescia, where Bergamo is, is the second-worst affected province in Lombardy.

In the city of Cremona in Lombardy, Dr. Romano Paolucci, who works at the Oglio Po Hospital said that he is seeing plenty of dead patients, and that the city’s health workers have to deal with a lack of medical equipment, long hours and a startlingly increasing number of infected medical personnel.

Paolucci states that the small hospital he works at is “at the end” of its strength. The hospital is taking in too many people and they are over capacity, and only around 70 percent of their patients are surviving.

Figures released by Italian health authorities show that 86 percent of the country’s fatalities were people over the age of 70, while another 10 percent of fatalities came from people who were 60 to 69 years old.

In a statement, Prime minister Conte pledged to direct up to 300 doctors to support Italy’s most hard-hit areas. This volunteer task force will be made up of doctors from less-affected parts of Italy.

Furthermore, the Italian government has decided to draft 10,000 graduating medical students into service. Universities are reporting that the government has decided to waive their mandatory exams and release the 10,000 new doctors into the employment of the country’s national health system. Officials state that the new graduates will be sent to practice in low-risk working conditions such as general practitioners’ clinics and seniors’ homes so that their more experienced colleagues can be sent to hospitals to deal with COVID-19 patients.

As of press time, 14 doctors in Italy have lost their lives to COVID-19 and at least 3,559 other health workers have been infected with the virus. This accounts for around eight percent of the total number of confirmed cases in Italy. This shows the country’s pressing need for more health workers, which explains why the government has decided to conscript medical students.

Sources include: [PDF]

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