But now the virus is raging again across Europe and Italy, with a surge that is hitting the north again, but this time also the south. In the Campaign, which includes Naples, the daily number of new cases detected is five times the peak of March.
So the question is whether Italy has gained enough time.
Compared to six months ago, in the south of Italy there is more space to accommodate critical patients. More fans. However, many hospitals in the south remain understaffed and have fewer beds per capita than in the north. They can reach a turning point if the number of critical patients increases.
The regional governor of Campania ordered the school closed by the end of October and threatened to block if numbers continued to rise.
“Are we dramatizing this?”; Governor Vincenzo De Luca wrote on his official Facebook page. “No, just make a calculation that will not allow us to defeat the situation in our hospitals.”
During the first wave, Lombardy, the northern region that includes Milan, accounted for about a third of all infections. Now it accounts for one-sixth, despite the fact that cases have also bounced sharply. In Lazio, in the vicinity of Rome, most people are hospitalized with covid-19, a disease caused by coronavirus; Next are Lombardy and Campania.
Perhaps the most striking aspect is how quickly the virus spread in the south. Some regions traveled for days in the summer without finding a single case. In mid-June, 125 people were infected with the virus in the Campaign. Now it has more than 13,000.
For the past six months, southern Italy has been trying to prepare for the virus – and make up for years of hospital mismanagement and financial cuts.
In Puglia, a large region that is the heel of Italy’s shoes, the government has identified specific hospitals and buildings to treat incoming coronavirus patients – a means to reduce the risk of infection. Puglia has three times more fans than in the spring, said Pierre Luigi Lopalco, an epidemiologist who consulted with the region on its response.
But, according to Lopalko, despite the fact that Puglia has a laboratory to process 15,000 coronavirus tests a day, it only has enough medical staff to perform about 5,000 tests a day. The region tried to recruit doctors and nurses. He recently tried to hire 30 nurses and could only find six.
“So many of these young nurses now work for them [northern] regions, with a very good contract, “said Lopalko, who will soon become head of health care for the Puglia government. “It’s not easy to convince these people to come home.”
The campaign has made its own preparations, including the opening of accommodation units for people who have been discharged from the hospital but are still positive about the virus. Such facilities give the region a better chance of keeping hospital beds open to the most critical patients.
But Giuseppe Galano, head of the regional association of anesthesiologists, said the Campaign’s health care system had been dealing with mismanagement and cost escalation for years – only then did it fall under an external administration that froze hiring.
“The Campaign still lacks at least 200-300 anesthesiologists,” which requires work for intubation, Galano said. “It’s a big drawback.”
Walter Ricciardi, an adviser to the World Health Organization at the Italian Ministry of Health, said the south was “definitely not ready” for a coronavirus outbreak.
“They had to invest in improving staff, systems, and in some cases they didn’t do enough,” said Ricciardi, who argued that officials in some regions were complacent and underestimated the risk of virus recovery.
“It’s very sad,” he said. “In some southern regions, if there is a similar epidemic, the consequences will be more serious.”
Hospitals have not yet reached a critical level. The number of patients in intensive care across the country is one-seventh of the total since the peak in March. But Italy’s National Institutes of Health has warned that about half of Italy’s regions, both in the north and in the south, could see at least 30 percent of their covid-19 intensive care beds within the next month.
“I think we will have more and more [hospitalized] cases, ”Lopalko said, saying it was still possible that the restrictions could slow the infection and keep the situation from spiraling. “The risk we have is that we will have to close our normal hospital activities. This is the risk we are trying to avoid. “
Last week, Italy was required to wear masks even outdoors, and this week curtailed hours of work in bars and restaurants. Officials say the goal is to prevent the need for a second, inevitably bruised, national blockade. But they say local or even regional blockades may be needed.
Several small towns have already closed when they see rapidly growing cases. One of them, Galati Mamertino, a city in Sicily, did not register zero cases of coronavirus during the first six months of the pandemic.
Then the first person fell ill and received positive results, said Mayor Antonino Baglio. The city did more smears and it soon became clear that 122 people – out of a total of 2,600 – were carrying the virus. The vast majority of them were asymptomatic, but a few nights ago a 50-year-old boy who was in good health was taken to hospital with respiratory problems. The man’s father was also hospitalized.
Police and the army are now stationed on the roads to the city, controlling access. About 600 people are in isolation after contact with people who are known to be positive.
“We thought we were free,” Baglio said. “Then, suddenly, you rush into the thick of it and realize the tragedy and its magnitude. You look at everything. You understand that it is very important to have a vision and not think that we are immune. What you see on TV is absolutely real. And a very, very big burden. “