How Italy fought its way back from COVID chaos

At 9pm on March 9, 2020 , the Italian chief Minister announced an unheard of measure: immediate lockdown for the complete country. A population of 60 million was thrown into the worst emergency since World War II. Convoys of the Italian army began to transport coffins out of Bergamo in the country’s north and nobody knew what was coming next.

But come summer 2021, all activities, excluding discos and crowded concerts, returned. Tourism was back to normal and national and international travel was allowed.

Coffins on the floor in the San Giuseppe church in Seriate, near Bergamo, as COVID swept by Italy last year.Credit:AP

As of Monday, the number of new infections per week in Italy is 39 situations per 100,000 v 58 in Australia and a remarkable 478 in Britain. There are nevertheless harsh situations, hospitalisations and deaths (the average for last week was 41 deaths a day in Italy v 136 a day in Britain), but the health system is under control.

Italy, the first Western country hit by COVID-19, has shown how to fight its way back. Although frequently criticised for its efficiency gaps, Italy conceived and implemented major public health measures against COVID-19 that were later implemented in Europe – such as mandatory masks, closed “red areas”, curfews and, above all, national lockdown. secluded from all neighbouring countries, which initially closed their borders, Italy continued to develop its strategy in different ways by the crisis. Its experience could be instructive for Australia.

After six weeks of national lockdown, Italy little by little lifted all restrictions and the chief Minister invited the population to take “a calculated risk” and “learn to live with COVID-19″. Some people were scared, but many sectors of the economy were relieved, tourism in particular. It was a season of change, allowing for the local population to slowly retrieve, but then colder weather brought a setback and the country struggled with the virus until March 2021.

Two major factors applicable to Australia right now changed the scenario.

First, the vaccination campaign ramped up successfully. Today, Italy has more than 74 per cent of the whole population fully vaccinated and has started the third measure for chosen groups. To escalate take-up further, a proof of complete vaccination (“green pass”) has been made mandatory to work and go into all public spaces, including restaurants and transport.

Tourism resumed in Italy this summer.Credit:Bloomberg

Second, restrictions have been increasingly focused on the regional level, using different parameters to cause them. Initially, policies were based on the R, or reproduction rate of the virus, which was considered controversial. Although providing a better indication of the epidemiological trend of infections, R is hard to calculate, released once a week (for the week before), and difficult to interpret. After a long argue, it was replaced by three indicators: weekly incidence rates per 100,000, hospital occupation rates in intensive care and occupation rates in other medical wards dedicated to COVID-19. The advantage of these measures is that they are all publicly obtainable at province, regional and national level on a daily basis, consequently much better appropriate to include citizens.

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