MS Risk Blog

Italy’s Fight Against COVID-19 Pandemic: The Reason Behind Italy’s High Fatality

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As of 31 March, the confirmed cases of coronavirus in Italy have reached 105,792 cases with 12,428 deaths. Until the end of March, Italy is the country with the largest number of total cases and deaths related to the coronavirus pandemic in Western Europe. Italy’s mortality rate is also the highest throughout Western Europe, with a percentage of 11.7%. Italy detected the first case on 29 January from two Chinese tourists which the government quickly isolated. At the end of January, Italy announced the status of ‘State of Emergency’ throughout the country and became the first country in Western Europe to ban flights from China. However, suddenly the virus re-emerged on 18 February when a 38 years-old man was confirmed to be the first locally transmitted case of coronavirus in Italy. Several towns in Northern Italy, believed to be the ground zero of coronavirus spreading in Italy were placed under a lockdown. However, cases kept rising drastically within national levels and finally the government imposed a nationwide lockdown on 10 March.  Many people are wondering why the impact that Italy suffers from the pandemic is much higher than other countries especially in regards to total deaths and mortality rates after some preventive measures that have been imposed. This could be subjected to the fact that the virus could have been circulated unnoticed in the country.

Scientists have been stating that probably virus in Italy has been spreading since early January. It is possible because the virus incubation period could be as long as 7-14 days. During the incubation period, the person infected will not show any symptoms. However, research has shown that the spreading of virus between humans with no symptoms at all is possible. This means that the virus has been spreading more freely than what it was initially thought and preventive measures taken by the government are considered to be too late. Before late January, the existence of COVID-19 was not very well-acknowledged by most people even doctors and scientists. This is proven by reports emerging throughout media in Italy that suggest many hospitals in Northern Italy observed unusually high numbers of pneumonia cases one month before the outbreak was declared. These pneumonia cases are possibly related to the coronavirus.

Another factor that could affect the impact of coronavirus pandemic in Italy is the age of its population. Italy has the oldest population in Europe and second only to Japan at the world level, with 23% of its population being 65 years old and older. It is also reported that 37% of cases in Italy are filled with people over the age of 70. The virus has known to be more lethal to the elderly and people with past illnesses, which creates another reason why the number of deaths and mortality rates in Italy are higher than in other countries. Italy’s national health institute also stated that the average of patients who have died from the virus is 78. To be concluded, Italy’s high number of deaths and mortality rate are most likely caused by the early unnoticed spreading of the virus and its aging population. It is logical to consider that it was almost impossible to prevent the spread of coronavirus. At this point, governments throughout Europe should focus not only on containment measures but also on measures to cure people who got infected.