ROME | Italy, hard hit by the first wave of the coronavirus, is today an exception in Europe with a limited number of new cases, a result obtained at the cost of strict anti-COVID measures hailed on Friday by the WHO.
While France for example recorded on Thursday a record number of 16,096 new cases of COVID-19 in 24 hours, the number of daily contagions in Italy, which carries out more than 120,000 tests per day (against 180,000 in France), has been below 2000 for weeks.
How to explain this Italian specificity? In an interview with AFP, Professor Massimo Andreoni, renowned infectious disease specialist at the Roman hospital of Tor Vergata, highlights “several reasons”.
“The epidemic struck Italy earlier, which was very aware of this problem and immediately put in place a very severe containment plan. Italy was the first European country to implement a total closure which lasted several weeks (…) and we are still benefiting from it “, he underlines, while highlighting” the very gradual reopening and very slow country, which is not even over yet! ”
“The stadiums are still closed, the discos have been closed again, the schools are not yet all open …” he lists, while the return to school began on September 14.
“In addition, the Italians play by the rules quite well. When I see the images of other European cities, I see a lot more people without masks than in Italy. Here, the precautionary measures are rather well respected ”, he welcomes.
An opinion shared by Benny Boas, a 28-year-old New York tourist in Bermuda shorts and crossed T-shirt at the Trevi fountain: “Here people wear masks, the police watch over them, and that's important”. “I feel very safe here in Italy (…) In Sweden we do not have these rules on wearing masks,” adds Louise Tietjens, a thirty-something with big blue eyes on vacation in Rome with her boyfriend.
One example among others of the mobilization of Italy, yet often mocked for its chaotic organization and the weight of its bureaucracy: Rome-Fiumicino airport (Italy) became the first in the world to receive the maximum score of five stars, awarded by the Skytrax rating organization, for its health management of COVID-19.
The Roman platform was particularly popular for temperature checks, the compulsory wearing of a mask, the provision of hydroalcoholic gel, physical distancing and control of the number of visitors in the stores.
“I believe that Italians try to follow the rules as best as possible,” confirms Giacomo Rech, owner of Green Tea, a Chinese restaurant close to the Pantheon in the center of Rome.
“We control the temperature of all customers on their arrival, who must disinfect their hands and fill out a form with their names and contact details to be contacted if necessary. The plasticized menus are disinfected between each customer, the tables are far from each other … ”he explains to AFP.
Despite this reassuring picture, Professor Andreoni wants to be “careful”: “in two or four weeks, when all the schools will have reopened (…) we will have to see what the impact will be and if Italy will succeed in maintaining these low levels (of contagion) or if it will reach the levels of France and Spain ”.
“To know if we were really good students, we will have to wait another month,” he concludes.
In any case, this hitherto successful policy earned Italy a hat trick from the World Health Organization (WHO) on Friday: “The government and society, at all levels, have reacted. forcefully and reversed the trend with a series of measures based on science, ”greeted the WHO in a post on Twitter, immediately retweeted by Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte.