There is no longer any doubt that Italy is the new epicenter of Covid-19. More than seventeen thousand people have been confirmed infected. The most frightening thing is the high proportion of seriously ill and dead.
The whole of Italy has been in quarantine for several days. Permits are required to move out on the streets and squares. Almost only grocery stores and pharmacies are open. Not even the country’s national sport – football – has survived and the world-famous annual cycling race Giro d’Italia has been canceled. Even the churches have now closed.
The number of confirmed infections may no longer say much about the situation somewhere because it has to do with how many people are tested. But the number of patients who have to be treated in healthcare is still increasing rapidly – at the moment, about 8,000 people are being treated in Italian hospitals, of which about 1,500 require intensive care. More than 1,400 people have died.
Hospital goes on its knees
Several hospitals in the most affected areas in the northern parts of the country are on their knees. Operating rooms have been converted into intensive care with respirators in place. Healthcare professionals testify to an almost inhuman situation. There is a lack of equipment such as protective masks and doctors do not have time to go to the toilet or eat. In addition, several people working in healthcare have been infected or quarantined.
But crisis management is something that Italy is good at. Centuries of earthquakes and the occasional tsunami have made them refined.
In healthcare, people are struggling to find new resources. People tell me that both young newly graduated doctors and pensioners, themselves in the risk group for dying in Covid-19, sign up to work in the hard-working hospitals.
A gigantic challenge
Factories are in operation twenty-four hours a day in order to maximize the production of respirators. A doctor tells me that there are far-reaching plans to restructure production in a factory where sanitary napkins and tampons are usually produced. Now protective masks will be manufactured instead. Prescriptions for hand alcohol are sent to pharmacies so that they can make the place and sell immediately.
But in a country that even before the epidemic had major economic problems, this is a gigantic challenge and the side effects of what is happening now will most likely remain in Italian society for a long time.
A sinking ship
Italy is like a ship taking in water and it sinks so fast that it is not even enough if everyone on board pours. Now it’s about making sure everyone is proficient in swimming.
The focus is on making the spread flatten out – no one thinks it can be stopped completely. But the slower the spread, the less the burden on the already employed care and the greater the chance of even starting to approach normalcy.
The Italian restrictions may seem extreme to us right now. But maybe we should not be so quick to judge. Because in these times, the uncertainty is great and Italy is a country that right now is putting all its focus on keeping its nose above the surface.