Italy received the most praise for its corona policy in these days. The UN World Health Organization presented the Italian way of dealing with the virus in its own 4.5-minute video as exemplary: the first western country to be hit by the pandemic met it successfully and could be a role model for combating it – through “commitment, coordination and good communication between government and society”. Geneva also praised Italy’s “resilient health system and evidence-based response” to the pandemic crisis. In interviews with scientists and executives from the Italian National Health Authority, the WHO looks at the success factors in detail: the country was ready to take tough action from the start, explains boss Silvio Brusaferro, referring to the early complete shutdown of the first known corona- hotspot, the small town of Codogno. The course of the infection was also monitored at an early stage. Foreign knowledge has been brought into the country and there has been a lot of collaboration, says Flavia Riccardo, an investigator with the authority.
High discipline in times of greatest suffering
And Franco Locatelli, physician and chief adviser to the Ministry of Health, points to Bergamo, by far the most affected city, with a death rate from the virus at four to five times the normal annual average in spring. This “very painful experience” led citizens to accept “very harsh measures,” says Locatelli, who was himself born in Bergamo. For weeks, people across the country were only allowed to shop and work from home, even exercising at their best on the doorstep.
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Indeed, Italy showed a high degree of discipline in everyday life during the months of the worst suffering. The acceptance of the Covid measures was shown, among other things, by the rapidly declining popularity curve of the right-wing extremist Lega boss Matteo Salvini, whose anger over caution, lockdown and preliminary government policy apparently less and less people listened. Even Italy’s first Corona demo recently seemed more inspired by Germany.
Rich Lombardy is bad at general medicine
Nevertheless, the numbers in Italy have recently started to rise again. And whether the country’s health system is actually as robust as it is lauded by the WHO remains the question, given that the virus has hit Lombardy, especially so horribly, with its high-tech clinics. Potential oversupply: In several spring letters, GPs from Lombardy complained that the region had cut basic supplies in the area in favor of expensive medical equipment.
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As was known, and is likely to be a major advantage of local politics, as evidenced by a pertinent corruption judgment against former Lombard Prime Minister Roberto Formigoni. For now it is only certain that an enormous number of months of work by nurses and doctors warrants the praise of the WHO. And the well-known improvisation genius of Italy, “l’arte di arrangiarsi”, who also did its best during the crisis.