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Italy has begun easing major restrictions after two months of stopping the coronavirus. 4.4 million Italians are able to return to work and some traffic restrictions have been lifted in the first European country to block during a pandemic. (May 4)

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ROME – Italy and the United States are a contrast study of how they faced the pandemic.

Italy was the first country to be hit hard after the virus spread beyond China’s borders and the country took decisive action after several wrong steps. Italy’s national lock was the first in Europe in peacetime and was stricter and lasted longer than in other countries. The rules were strictly enforced by the police with the power to impose fines.

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Leaders followed the same guidelines for mask and social distancing as everyone else, as Italian factories began producing fans, masks and other protective equipment. Each time groups of cases emerged, the area was quickly quarantined and patients were cared for by a free public health system.

Most importantly, the Italians mostly followed the rules.

“In Italy, we may have a reputation as a nation of unorganized offenders, but the truth is that people are willing to follow the advice of their doctors,” said Giovanni Sebastiani, a researcher and member of Italy’s National Research Council. “Our lock was long, we only opened it in measured stages, and almost everyone did what they had to do.”

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Italy, a country of 60 million, is the first in the world to have 200,000 official cases of coronavirus (April 28) and the first to register 30,000 deaths (May 7). But by the end of May, the daily infection rate had dropped from more than 5,000 to a low triple – and for the most part it remained there until last month.

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Now, as in most European countries, COVID-19 infections in Italy are on the rise again, with the country surpassing 10,000 new infections on Friday, breaking its highest daily maximum for positive tests. The World Health Organization has warned that the virus is rapidly spiraling out of control in Europe and the region has reached a tipping point to contain a second wave of coronavirus.

In recent days, daily infection rates have risen to more than 14,000 in Spain, nearly 20,000 in Britain and nearly 30,000 in France, all well above their spring highs. Since the beginning of October, the United States has averaged between 50,000 and 60,000 cases a day, according to the COVID project. The United States had about 8 million cases and more than 217,000 deaths.

However, earlier this month, German Chancellor Angela Merkel – Germany is the largest European country with the greatest success in curbing the spread of the virus – warned her compatriots not to rest in high-risk parts of Europe. But she said they had no problem traveling to Italy, where she said the government “acted with great caution”.

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“Watch with distrust”

Italians, meanwhile, have shaken heads at U.S. news reports. with their own case of COVID-19, downplaying the severity of the disease, all Italians were difficult to understand.

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“Italians have always looked at the United States, but what is happening now makes us look with disbelief,” said Flavio Chiaponi, a political scientist at the University of Pavia in northern Italy. “In the earliest days of the pandemic, we learned our lessons through trial and error, which is why it hit us so hard.

“We hoped other countries would learn from what we experienced, but that didn’t happen in many countries, including the United States,” Chiaponi said.

Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte has vowed that the country will not face a new blockade at the national level.

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“We are much better prepared now than we were in March and April,” said Giorgio Palu, an honorary professor of microbiology at the University of Padua and former president of the European Society of Virology. “Hospitals are prepared and tests are far more widespread. We understand what we are dealing with. “

Many in Italy believe that inadequate testing in the early weeks has led to a massive case count, meaning that rates in March and April would reduce current levels.

This week, the government introduced new restrictions on social events at home, restaurants, school activities and even weddings. Earlier this month, a decree was passed requiring the use of masks even outside and away from others. The coronavirus state of emergency, first introduced on January 31, has now been extended to its one-year anniversary, giving authorities the power to quickly block neighborhoods or cities when needed.

“We must continue like this”

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The majority of Italians are good at wearing masks, according to a study published in the summer by Imperial College London. This study showed that about 85% of Italians said they were “very” or “quite” willing to wear a mask, if advised to do so, the highest percentage among European countries surveyed.

As the infection rate rose in September, coffee bars and town squares were full of news. But cautiously optimistic residents have said they have not lost faith in the government.

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“I feel that the country’s leadership has sent a clear, unified and consistent message about the coronavirus, unlike the situation at home,” said Molly Gage, a mother of two who was originally from Pittsburgh but has been based in Rome for 13 years. “In Italy, the pandemic is treated as a public health problem, which is what it is. It’s hard for everyone, but one thing that makes it a little easier is to know that everything that can be done here , is done. “

Alessandra Bernero, an office worker who had been ill with COVID-19 for four weeks in March and April, had a similar view.

“When I wake up, the first thing I do is look on my phone for the latest information on infections and deaths and hospitalizations,” she said. “A few months ago, I was calmer than I am now, but I know we are paying attention and taking the problem seriously. We must continue like this until the virus disappears or there is a vaccine. “

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They are known as the “invisible”, undocumented African migrants in Italy who plunged Italy into crisis before the coronavirus outbreak, barely scraped as day laborers, prostitutes, freelance hairdressers and seasonal farm hands. (May 1)

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