The Deadly Wave Of COVID-19 and its impact on Italy

A sudden outbreak of the novel pandemic Coronavirus or COVID-19 in Italy has caused a never seen before disaster in terms of hospitalizations and deaths.

The coronavirus is a specific type of virus that affects the respiratory tracts. They cause several illnesses, ranging from colds and pneumonia to Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome. In Italy, the first two cases of coronavirus (COVID-19) were registered at the end of January 2020. Then, since February 22, the epidemic started to spread quickly among the Italian population. As of May 6, 2020, Italy recorded 214.5 thousand cases of coronavirus (COVID-19), representing, after the U.S., the second most affected country worldwide.

Currently, the regions with the highest number of cases are Lombardy, Emilia-Romagna, and Piedmont, located in the north of the country. Demographic data on the infected patients show that COVID-19 in Italy hit mainly male individuals and people aged 50 years and older.

Due to the outbreak of the novel coronavirus, the gross domestic product (GDP) in Italy is estimated to decrease. The impact of coronavirus on the Italian economy might vary according to the sector. For instance, the gross domestic product of food, health, cosmetics, and media industries is expected to increase. Conversely, the sectors of textile, transport, hotels, restaurants, entertainment, and sporting events are estimated to record the highest drop.

“When COVID patients enter the hospital, they think it’s the beginning of the end,” says psychologist Tommaso Speranza. His hospital, Rome’s Spallanzani infectious diseases institute, has been leading Italy’s response to the coronavirus crisis. Today, fear of dying, anxiety, depression, anger, panic attacks, insomnia, and survivor’s guilt – all known to affect survivors of natural disasters and war have emerged as common symptoms.

“If the patients don’t have to be urgently admitted to the intensive care unit, we have a first therapy session to confront their fear. We try to transform it into hope, telling them they’re not alone and encouraging them to trust the staff at the hospital: that they will do whatever they can to save their lives,” says Dr. Speranza.

The team of psychologists establishes daily contact with family members of Covid-19 patients. Sometimes the family is suffering more than the patient. They can’t come to visit; they can just wait. It’s emotionally exhausting. Psychologists have teamed up from the public, private, and NGO sectors, offering their help free of charge in response to the mental health emergency. Lombardy has been on the front line of the crisis. Half of Italy’s deaths have been in this northern region. The hardest thing for them to do is call patients’ family members, not knowing them personally, and tell them their loved ones have died.” They can be doing this 10 times a day.

Many of those discharged from hospital have found it hard to shake off the trauma they’ve been through. On 23 February 2020, Law-Decree No. 6/2020 (the Law-Decree) and several Decrees of the Prime Minister implementing the Law-Decree (the DPCMs) as well as the order were issued by the Ministry of Health in agreement with Lombardy Region (and, as from 10 March 2020, in the whole Italian territory) in order to limit the circulation of people and avoid, as much as possible, the spread of the contamination.

In Lombardy, the pre-crisis total ICU capacity was approximately 720 beds these ICUs usually have 85% to 90% occupancy during the winter months. The mission of the COVID-19 Lombardy ICU Network was to increase ICU capacity and implementing measures for containment. Local health authorities established strong containment measures in the initial cluster by quarantine of several towns in an attempt to slow virus transmission. In the second week, other clusters emerged. During this time, the ICU network advised the government to put in place every measure, such as reinforcing public health measures of quarantine and self-isolation, to contain the virus.

As of 30th June 2020, Italy has 15,563 active cases during the peak of the pandemic, Italy’s number of active cases was one of the highest in the world. Overall, there have been 240,578 confirmed cases and 34,767 deaths (a rate of 561 deaths per million population), while there have been 190,248 recoveries or dismissals.

Within Italy, COVID-19 deaths are mainly observed among older, male patients who also have multiple comorbidities. However, these data are limited and were derived from the first month of documented COVID-19 cases in Italy. In addition, some patients who are currently infected may die in the near future, which may change the mortality pattern.

From a research perspective, the comparisons are discussed to highlight the need for transparency in reporting testing policies, with clear reporting of the denominators used to calculate case-fatality rates and the age, sex, and clinical comorbid status of affected persons when comparing COVID-19 case and mortality rates between different countries and regions.

Finally, because the outbreak is new, continued surveillance, with transparent and accurate reporting of patient characteristics and testing policies, is needed from multiple countries to better understand the global epidemiology of COVID-19.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the blog are the writer’s own opinion. Dunya News will not be held responsible for any kind of discrepancy. 

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