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Italy surpassed 1m confirmed coronavirus infections on Wednesday, as its death toll climbed rapidly in a second wave that is wreaking havoc on hospitals.
The government is biding its time on resorting to another national lockdown despite repeated calls from overwhelmed medics for such a policy.
A further 623 Covid-related deaths were registered on Wednesday, the highest daily tally since early April, and there were 32,961 new infections. Italy is the third country in mainland Europe, after Spain and France, to exceed 1m cases.
Italy was the first country in Europe to be hit by the pandemic and has the highest death toll on the continent, at 42,953. Doctors said this week there would be an additional 10,000 deaths in a month unless drastic action was taken.
There are now 29,444 people hospitalised for Covid-19 across the country – the highest number since the start of the pandemic.
“We need a general lockdown like the one in March and April, maybe for two or three weeks or a month, in order to bring the infection rate down,” said Giovanni Leoni, the vice-president of an Italian doctors’ federation. “The number of admissions to intensive care is doubling every 10 days and at this speed it will be very difficult to guarantee care to patients with other diseases.”
The critical threshold of Covid patients taking up 30% of intensive care has already been exceeded in some regions, and hospitals are struggling to find space for people in general wards. Ambulances have been queueing outside emergency units in the badly hit northern city of Turin, where emergency teams are also treating Covid patients in their homes. An otherwise healthy 21-year-old woman died of Covid in one of the city’s hospitals this week.
In the southern city of Naples, people have been treated for Covid in their cars as they wait outside hospitals. One of the reasons for the chaos is that people are rushing to emergency units even with mild symptoms.
The further south, where hospitals are less equipped than those in the wealthier north, the more worrying the situation. Leoluca Orlando, the mayor of Palermo, said his city and the rest of Sicily risked heading towards “an announced massacre”.
Last week Sicily was placed in the medium-risk “orange zone” as part of the government’s tiered system, which imposes varying levels of restrictions on regions according to factors including the Covid transmission rate, hospital efficiency and availability of intensive care beds.
The number of these beds across Italy has increased from 5,000 at the beginning of the pandemic to 7,500, but there is a shortage of anaesthetists. There are 3,081 Covid patients in intensive care nationwide, and the average time spent there is two to three weeks.
“It is a very complicated situation,” said Tuttlio Prestileo, a doctor of infectious diseases at the Benfratelli hospital in Palermo. “On Tuesday we met with the regional government to increase intensive care spaces. We are making a superhuman effort. But we cannot guarantee space indefinitely.”
In the last month 18,000 health workers have become infected with Covid while doing their jobs, exacerbating the shortages.
Silvio Scotti, the president of the Italian federation of general practitioners, has also called for a national lockdown and described the government’s three-tiered system of red, orange and yellow as “a joke of a jigsaw”.
“We have doctors, nurses, health workers, cleaners, people who have been fighting this battle for months now,” he told Sky TG24.
The prime minister, Giuseppe Conte, told La Stampa on Wednesday that he was waiting to see whether recent measures have an impact on the infection curve over the next few days. “It’s true, there are critical issues,” he said. “But a generalised lockdown shouldn’t be the first choice – the costs would be too high.”
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: Italy passes 1m Covid cases as calls grow for national lockdown | Italy