Italy’s daily Covid-19 death toll lowest since mid-March
As Italy prepares to emerge from the West’s first and most extensive coronavirus lockdown, it is increasingly clear that something went terribly wrong in Lombardy, the hardest-hit region.
After being battered by the coronavirus pandemic, Italy on Monday recorded its lowest number of deaths in 24 hours since mid-March. The number of people who died due to the disease between Sunday and Monday is 260, the country’s health department said.
Italy had the bad luck of being the first Western nation to be slammed by the outbreak, and its official total of 26,600 fatalities lags behind only the US in the global death toll. Its first homegrown case was recorded on February 21, at a time when the World Health Organisation (WHO) was still insisting the virus was “containable” and not nearly as infectious as the flu.
The hardest-hit region in Europe’s hardest-hit country is Lombardy. Virologists and epidemiologists say what went wrong there will be studied for years, given how the outbreak overwhelmed a medical system considered one of Europe’s best. In neighbouring Veneto, the impact was significantly more controlled.
Even after Italy registered its first homegrown case, doctors didn’t understand the unusual way Covid-19 could present itself, with some patients experiencing a rapid decline in their ability to breathe.
Italy was forced to rely on home care in part because of its low ICU capacity: After years of budget cuts, Italy went into the emergency with 8.6 ICU beds per 1,00,000 people, below the average of 15.9 within the developed countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).
Some 20,000 Italian medical personnel have been infected and 150 doctors have died.
Two days after Italy registered its first case in the Lombardy province of Lodi, sparking a quarantine in 10 towns, another positive case was registered more than an hour’s drive away in Alzano in the province of Bergamo.
By March 2, the Superior Institute of Health recommended Alzano and nearby Nembro be sealed off like the Lodi towns. But political authorities never implemented that recommendation, allowing the infection to spread for a second week until all of Lombardy was locked down March 7.