21, March 2020
The COVID 19 outbreak enters its fifth week in Italy amid fears that the pandemic will last longer than expected. The head of civil protection, Angelo Borrelli, announced on Friday that the peak in the infection spread is still two weeks away with Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte hinting at the possibility of extending the draconian lockdown measures nationwide well beyond April 3.
This is while over 40,000 people have contracted the virus and over 3,400 have died of it so far in Italy, surpassing the number of coronavirus deaths in China. Disappointment is growing in the country over a perceived lack of support from Europe. Earlier in March, when Rome asked for urgent supplies of medical equipment under a special European crisis mechanism, not a single EU country responded.
The healthcare situation is worsening particularly in the Lombardy region, the heart of the Italian coronavirus outbreak. Italy’s already-strained national health system is struggling with the lack of space, resources and staff after hospitals were deluged by coronavirus patients over the past weeks. Beds in intensive care departments are running out in the worst-hit regions and shortage of doctors has forced the government to hire retired doctors.
Meanwhile, a third team of 300 Chinese medical experts and nurses with tons of medical supplies landed in Milan on Friday. Some 21 other medical staff had already landed in Rome in the past days with 30 pulmonary ventilators, 200,000 face masks and nine tons of other supplies to help the Italian effort against the coronavirus.
Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio has praised China for its support saying that Rome-Beijing solidarity has deepened amid the coronavirus crisis. Also 65 doctors and nurses from Cuba are slated to arrive in Lombardy on Saturday.