Monday evening, the government extended to the whole country the measures already taken in the north of the peninsula. The country is the most affected in Europe, and its health system is struggling to cope.
“I'm staying at home” : this is the new slogan sent by the head of the Italian government, Giuseppe Conte, to the entire population of the country, Monday, March 9. The containment measures implemented the previous day in the north of the peninsula now cover the entire territory. The rallies are canceled, the schools closed and the Italians are called to limit their trips as much as possible. Drastic measures taken to try to stem the meteoric progression of the Covid-19 coronavirus epidemic: more than 10,000 people have tested positive for the virus, making it the most affected country after China. Franceinfo explains the situation and what the restrictions put in place consist of.
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How is the epidemic progressing in the country?
It is by far the European country most affected by the epidemic today. On Tuesday, the Italian government announced it had identified 977 new positive cases and 168 new deaths in 24 hours. This brings the total number of cases to 10,149 (of which only 1,004 have since recovered) and the total number of deaths to 631. Over 90% of virus-related deaths in Europe have occurred in Italy.
The scale of the epidemic is placing a strain on the Italian healthcare system. Tuesday, 5,038 people were hospitalized because of the Covid-19 in Italy, including 877 in intensive care, the majority in three northern regions: Veneto, Venice region (856 cases), Emilia-Romagna, Bologna region (1,533 cases), and especially Lombardy, region of Milan (5,791 cases). A map, updated by the Italian government, illustrates this very uneven distribution of cases in the country.
Doctors practicing in the provinces most affected give freezing testimonies. “For the past few days, we have had to choose who to intubate, between a 40 year old patient and a 60 year old patient who are both at risk of dying”, told Monday to The cross an anonymous doctor from the Cremona hospital in Lombardy. “It's excruciating and we cry about it, but we don't have enough artificial ventilation devices.” Another doctor, from a hospital in Brescia (Lombardy), claims to Release than “lhe anaesthesiologists ask us not to refer them to the elderly patients whom they will have to connect unnecessarily to a ventilator for fifteen or twenty days “, i.e. those who have “over 70” or suffer “other pathologies”. In a statement, Saturday, the society of Italian anesthesiologists made this principle a directive by encouraging, when a choice becomes inevitable, to treat patients as a priority with “greater life expectancy”.
What measures were already in place?
Sunday, the Italian government had already announced the first restrictive measures. In effect until April 3, these targeted the most affected area, 14 provinces in the north of the country from Milan to Venice, sheltering more than 15 million people, or a quarter of the country's population.
The decree tightly limited the possibilities to leave these regions, without preventing it entirely: certain airports remained open for internal connections to Italy and people having to work outside the zone still had the right to leave. However, patrols had been set up, particularly on the main roads, to check whether the people who were traveling had a good reason to do so.
In addition, throughout Italy, the government had announced the closure of educational establishments, discotheques, sports halls, cinemas and museums, as well as the cancellation of conferences, congresses and trade fairs.
However, the decree issued on Sunday no longer included, in the red zone, the very first outbreak of coronavirus in Italy, around small towns of Codogno and Casalpusterlengo, again authorizing certain movements of their inhabitants. Two other decrees provided for measures for the health system: the recruitment of 20,000 health personnel, the production of equipment for resuscitation services and the 50% increase in the number of beds in intensive care.
How were they cured on Monday?
Just over 24 hours later, the measures were therefore extended to the whole country. Including the south of the peninsula, where the number of cases is much smaller, but where the weakness of the health system raises fears that its impact will be even more serious. “If the virus descends quickly to the South, the situation will be unmanageable”, warned Walter Ricciardi, doctor and adviser to the Italian Minister of Health, in The cross.
“I am going to sign a decree which can be summarized as follows: 'I am staying at home'”, summarized the head of the Italian government, Giuseppe Conte, Monday evening. The text this time limits the movement of all Italians, which are only possible when faced with “professional requirements duly verified and in emergency situations, for health reasons”. And if it therefore remains possible to go to work, companies are invited to put their staff on leave. As for contaminated people, they are compulsorily under house arrest. Those who show symptoms of the virus, without having been tested, are strongly encouraged to avoid contact with the outside.
“Any form of gathering of people in public places or open to the public” is now prohibited. The new decree confirms the closure of schools and universities, museums, cinemas, casinos, nightclubs and even sports halls. And sports events are suspended. After a last match played behind closed doors Monday evening, the Italian football championship, Serie A, will thus stop until the end of confinement.
Shops will be able to open, but only between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m., as well as bars and restaurants, where customers must keep a distance of one meter. This same precautionary measure is in force in places of worship, where religious ceremonies are, on the other hand, prohibited, including marriages and burials. However, these new measures don't plan “to limit public transport, in order to guarantee continuity” economic activity “and allow people to go to work“, said Giuseppe Conte on Monday evening.
How do Italians react?
The first containment measures, which concerned only the north of the country, had caused panic and anger reactions. The news having leaked in the media before the official announcement, hundreds of people had rushed in the last trains in the direction of the regions spared by these measures, but which are therefore no longer since Monday evening. Political figures, notably from the League, the far-right party of Matteo Salvini, had challenged these drastic decisions. And the announcement of the suspension of visits and leaves has led to mutinies in at least ten prisons across the country, whether or not located in the confined area. Several detainees (ten according to the latest report by the authorities on Tuesday afternoon) died in conditions still unknown.
Monday evening, at the same time as the new containment measures targeting the whole country were announced, some supermarkets open at night were stormed, in Rome and Naples in particular. A salesman interviewed by the Italian news agency Ansa described shelves where soaps and disinfectants – but also potatoes, rusks, milk, sugar and flour – went first from the shelves, “like in wartime”. The supermarkets will however remain open during the day. AFP journalists found lines in convenience stores on Tuesday in the capital, where customers keep their distance from each other.
However, the measures seem rather respected. “What is very impressive is the silence”, tells France 2 a French resident of Rome, whose window overlooks a deserted street. “It feels like people have really realized how serious things are. Even among the people who are on the street, nobody speaks.”
Examples of solidarity also emerged from this crisis: a kitty online, launched Monday by an Italian influencer and rapper, had exceeded Tuesday noon the bar of three million euros in donations, which the organizers say intended to finance intensive care in a Milanese hospital.
We comply with the instructions until the Vatican. The Holy See has released a video of Pope Francis celebrating his daily Mass alone at the Sainte-Marthe residence, a few steps from St. Peter's Basilica. “Let us pray to the Lord for our priests, that they may have the courage to go out and visit the sick”, he urged.