Italy’s Quarantine Leaves Locked-Down Towns Feeling ‘Sacrificed’

Italy’s Quarantine Leaves Locked-Down Towns Feeling ‘Sacrificed’

Health authorities in Rome argued that the aggressive testing in Lombardy violated international guidelines that only people showing symptoms should be tested, and thus inflated numbers and the perception of the threat. The broad testing, and resulting high numbers of people infected with the virus but without symptoms, have burdened the health system.

  • Updated Feb. 26, 2020

    • What is a coronavirus?
      It is a novel virus named for the crownlike spikes that protrude from its surface. The coronavirus can infect both animals and people and can cause a range of respiratory illnesses from the common cold to more dangerous conditions like Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, or SARS.
    • How do I keep myself and others safe?
      Washing your hands frequently is the most important thing you can do, along with staying at home when you’re sick.
    • What if I’m traveling?
      The C.D.C. has warned older and at-risk travelers to avoid Japan, Italy and Iran. The agency also has advised against all nonessential travel to South Korea and China.
    • Where has the virus spread?
      The virus, which originated in Wuhan, China, has sickened more than 80,000 people in at least 33 countries, including Italy, Iran and South Korea.
    • How contagious is the virus?
      According to preliminary research, it seems moderately infectious, similar to SARS, and is probably transmitted through sneezes, coughs and contaminated surfaces. Scientists have estimated that each infected person could spread it to somewhere between 1.5 and 3.5 people without effective containment measures.
    • Who is working to contain the virus?
      World Health Organization officials have been working with officials in China, where growth has slowed. But this week, as confirmed cases spiked on two continents, experts warned that the world was not ready for a major outbreak.

If the virus spreads as it has, with each contagious person infecting two other people, the hospitals “will go into grave crisis,” a statement from the Lombardy region said. All nonemergency surgery and medical exams have been postponed. Doctors complained of a shortage of masks and gloves, according to Massimo Vajani, president of the Medical Association of Lodi, the provincial capital, where many red zone patients have been transferred.

In recent days, national officials have sought to downplay the threat, blaming the press and arguing that the virus hit only a tiny fraction of the population. Lombardy has since limited its testing only to people with symptoms.

Those without symptoms in the red zones said the suspension of testing added insult to injury.

“They have abandoned us here, infecting each other,” said Michela Torresani, a 36-year-old payroll worker who is under quarantine. She said the lack of tests created more doubt and anxiety. Out of precaution, she said, she had decided to avoid her elderly parents. “It’s too risky,” she said.

Italy’s economy has suffered too.

Millions of tourists have canceled their trips to Italy and the head of the Bank of Italy, Ignazio Visco, this week estimated that the impact of Coronavirus on Italy’s economy, already slumping, to be around 0.2 percent of the GDP.

Lombardy is the industrial heart of Italy, and the plains surrounding the locked-down towns are home to 3,000 companies. Every day of quarantine results in a loss of 50 million euros for the local economy according to Sabrina Baronio, head the area’s local business organization.

She said that the government had treated the area like a “lab rat” and that the experiment should not be repeated elsewhere. “Maybe we won’t have many deaths for coronavirus but we will assist the funeral of our companies.”

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