MILAN (AP) – Coronavirus infections are on the rise again in the region of northern Italy, where the pandemic has intensified for the first time in Europe, renewing pressure on hospitals and healthcare workers.
At the San Paolo Hospital in Milan, a ward dedicated to patients with COVID-19 and equipped with breathing machines was reopened over the weekend, a sign that the city and the surrounding Lombardy region are entering another emergency phase of the pandemic.
The region was Italy’s hardest hit in the spring, when Italy spent weeks with the highest number of virus-related victims in the world before being overtaken by the United States. For Lombardy medical staff battling the virus for the first time, the long-awaited recovery has come too soon.
“Psychologically, I have to say that I have not yet recovered,”
“In the last five days, I’ve seen a lot of people who are hospitalized and need respiratory support,” Settembrese said. “I have a nightmare with the difference that the virus is less deadly.”
Months after Italy eased one of the world’s toughest blockades, the country released its highest number of new cases a day on Wednesday, at 7,332 – surpassing the previous high of 6,557 recorded during the virus’s deadliest phase in March.
Lombardy is once again leading the nation in the number of cases, an echo of the traumatic spring months, when the sirens of the ambulance broke the silence of the calm cities.
The Italian government is ready to avoid another blockade across the country to protect the country’s economy, but did not rule out the closure of cities or provinces.
Increased testing is partly responsible for the last round of high numbers of cases, and many people who have taken tests are asymptomatic. So far, daily mortality figures for COVID-19 in Italy remain well below spring heights, hovering around 40 in recent days, compared to a maximum of 969 deaths reported in one day in late March.
In response to the current epidemic, the government of Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte has tightened national restrictions twice a week. As of Thursday, Italians are banned from playing casual pickup sports, bars and restaurants face midnight, and private celebrations in public places are banned. Masks have been mandatory outdoors since last week.
But there is also growing concern among doctors that Italy has squandered the gains it made during the 10-week blockade and has not moved fast enough to restore the restrictions. There are fears that growing stress on hospitals will force planned operations and screenings to be postponed – creating parallel emergency medical care, as happened in the spring.
Italy is not the only European country to see a resurgence of confirmed cases of viruses. French President Emmanuel Macron announced on Wednesday that 18 million people living in nine regions of France, including Paris, will have a curfew from Saturday to December 1 in an attempt to control new infections.
Macron also restored the state of health across the country, which ended three months ago. France has a total of 798,000 confirmed cases and nearly 33,000 deaths, while COVID-19 patients occupy one-third of intensive care beds nationwide.
“We’re not going to restaurants after 9pm, we’re not going to see friends, we’re not going to party because that’s how the virus is transmitted,” Macron said in a television interview.
Italy is doing better than its neighbors so far. Cases in Italy per 100,000 population have doubled in the last two weeks to nearly 87 – a percentage well below countries such as Belgium, the Netherlands, France, Spain and the UK, which see between 300 and 500 per 100,000. These countries have also started to impose new restrictions.
This time, Milan bears the brunt, accounting for half of the daily cases in Lombardy that surpassed 1,800 on Wednesday. 46.
The resumption of the cooling of the weather so far has been most strongly associated with the holidays, both at home and abroad, as the Italians flocked to the beaches and crowded islands in an extremely calm summer.
“Locking is a treasure that we scraped together with great effort and great sacrifice. We risk losing the results of the summer, which in a sense was quite reckless, “said Massimo Gali, director of the infectious diseases department at Sacco Hospital in Milan, to the Associated Press. “The whole country behaved as if infections had never existed and were no longer with us.”
His hospital is at the forefront of the pandemic, but he declined to say how many beds are occupied by coronavirus patients.
Dr. Anna Carla Pozzi, a family doctor on the outskirts of Milan, said she feared that fatigue was weakening society’s response to the virus’s resurgence. This creates a situation similar to that in January and February, when the virus circulates undetected in Italy and nothing is done, she said.
Pose sees her own patients acting surprisingly careless: Some ignore instructions to come to her office only with an appointment. A high school student called a doctor on Tuesday, seeking a medical certificate to return to school, saying she had spent a week at home recovering from flu-like symptoms.
“It’s great that you’re feeling better,” Pose told the student, adding that the girl still had to be tested for the virus before she could return to class.
The doctor was pleasantly surprised to find that he could book the patient for testing the next day, something unheard of in the winter and spring.
Testing helps Italy stay on top of the curve. On Wednesday, at least 100 cars were lined up for on-demand testing at the hospital in Sao Paulo, where Settembrese operates.
Dr Guido Marinoni, head of the Bergamo General Practitioners’ Association, which killed 6,000 people in a month, said people in the province were scared enough of what happened in the spring to continue to follow the rules. But this may not be the case in other parts of Lombardy or the country.
“Six thousand in a month.” Do you know how many were dead in five years when Milan was bombed during World War II, and a lot was targeted: 2000, “said Dr. Marinoni. “What is disturbing to see in other areas is the nightlife, the people who gather in bars and party. This is very dangerous. “
Associated Press journalist Luca Bruno contributed to the report.
This story has been updated to correct that the average death toll across the country is around 40, not 50, and that the hospital in Sao Paulo had cars lined up for testing on Wednesday instead of Thursday.