Italy, hard hit in the first wave of the Coronavirus, is today the exception in Europe (where the new outbreak of COVID-19 is almost general) with a limited number of new cases thanks to strict measures against the disease, which were recognized last week by the World Health Organization (WHO).
France, for example, registered a record 16,096 new cases of COVID-19 in 24 hours, while the number of daily infections in Italy, which performs more than 120,000 daily tests (180,000 in France), has been maintained for some time weeks below 2,000.
How to explain this Italian specificity?
Professor Massimo Andreoni, a renowned expert on infections at the Roman hospital in Tor Vergata, advanced “several reasons”. “The epidemic struck Italy earlier, which raised awareness of this problem and a very severe lockdown plan was immediately implemented.
Italy was the first country to carry out a total lockdown that lasted several weeks (…) and we still benefit from it,” he underlines. And highlights the “very progressive and very slow reopening of the country, which has not even finished yet!” “The stadiums are closed, the discotheques have closed again, the schools are not all open …”, he enumerates, despite the fact that the return to school began on September 14th.
“In addition, Italians respect the rules quite well. When I see the images of other European cities, I see many more people without masks than in Italy,” he congratulates himself.
Same point of view
That opinion is shared by Benny Boas, a 28-year-old tourist from New York, who walks near the Trevi fountain: “Here people wear masks, the police watch, and that is important.” Louise Tietjens, a Swede, agrees: “I feel very safe here in Italy (…) In Sweden we don’t have these rules about wearing masks,” she says.
Another example of the mobilization in Italy, a country nevertheless criticized for its chaotic organization and the heaviness of its bureaucracy: Rome-Fiumicino airport has become the first in the world to receive the maximum five-star rating, awarded by the Skytrax rating agency, for its health management of COVID-19.
The Roman airport is praised for its temperature controls, the mandatory wearing of masks, the availability of hydroalcoholic gel, its physical distancing and the control on the number of visitors in stores.
“I think Italians try to follow the rules as best as possible” confirms Giacomo Rech, owner of Green Tea, a Chinese cuisine restaurant, a stone’s throw from the Pantheon, in the heart of Rome. “We control the temperature of all customers upon arrival, they must disinfect their hands and fill out a form to be contacted in case of need (…), and the tables are far from each other,” he explains.
But despite this reassuring situation, Professor Andreoni wants to be “prudent.” “In two or four weeks, when all the schools have opened (…) we will see what the impact will have been and if Italy manages to maintain these low levels (of contagions) or if it approaches the levels of France or Spain,” he says. “To know if we have been really good students, we have to wait another month,” he concludes.
For now, this successful policy earned Italy a congratulation from the World Health Organization (WHO) last week. “The government and society, at all levels, have reacted strongly and reversed the trend with a series of means based on science,” the WHO greeted in a message on Twitter, immediately retweeted by Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte.