COVID-19: Reasons Why Italy Has Become the Most Affected Country Outside Asia

Bako, John Chukwudi

The number of people infected with the novel coronavirus has surpassed 115,000, with the death toll reaching more than 4,200, as countries around the world continue to grapple with the challenges of containing the pandemic. In Europe, cases have now been confirmed in every member nation of the European Union. Italy remains on total lockdown as its healthcare system struggles to cope.

Meanwhile, at the period when Italian government suspended all direct flights to and from China as a result of the outbreak of Coronavirus (COVID-19) in early January 2020, Italy was said to have had only two cases of the virus. Consequently, less than two months after the suspension of direct flights to and from China, Italy is having ironically more than 2,030 cases as of March 3.

On Tuesday 11th March 2020, Italy saw the biggest rise in coronavirus deaths since the outbreak started. At least 168 people died in the past 24 hours, said Angelo Borrelli, head of Italy’s Civil Protection Agency, on Tuesday. That brings the national total to 10,149 cases and 631 deaths.

The cause of COVID-19 Surge in Italy  

Italy has no border control with most European countries since the country is a signatory of the Schengen Agreement. Unilateral suspension of flights to and from China analysts said caused serious troubles and anxieties for thousands of Italian and Chinese passengers who were forced to return home.

Italy did not introduce the culture of wearing face masks as those who have common cold or sick failed to wear face masks. People in Italy were reported to view those who wear face masks as those with cancer or having other serious health issues. In sharp contrast with what is obtainable in China or any of the Asian societies where the culture of wearing face masks is view as a non-issue and highly seen as normal.

Research also revealed that many Italians who are infected are people who have never been to China or had contact with someone from China. This is a clear indication and a pointer to the fact that COVID-19 must have been spreading within northern Italy several weeks before it was eventually detected.

The wide spread of the virus in Italy has created “a feeling of uncertainty and fear, BBC reports. “In Bologna, people are struggling to come to terms with their strange new reality”.

The question then is, what is the government doing to contain the spread of COVID-19 in Italy as the rate of spread calls for pragmatic action from Italian politicians to initiate immediate measures to curb COVID-19’s wide spread in the country, across Europe and beyond to avert worse  situation.

Measures Taken to Contain COVID-19 Spread

The entire country of Italy with some 60 million people was put under lockdown (placed under quarantine) on Monday as the government stepped up efforts to tackle the coronavirus outbreak that has killed 631 people and affected more than 10,000, extending drastic measures and restrictions that had previously only been in place in the north. This situation has its own implication – it has created confusion, fear and panic.

Italy’s lockdown means residents’ movements are restricted; military police, health officials, and other authorities are conducting checks at train stations, highways, and city roads to make sure people are not traveling without permission. Schools are shut, public spaces like cinemas are closed, and typically bustling places like town squares are instead empty as people stay home.

Global Outlook

Globally, more than 4,000 people have died from the coronavirus and over 113,000 cases have been confirmed, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). About 64,000 people have recovered around the world.

In Africa, coronavirus is spreading but slowly with new cases in Togo, Cameroon, Nigeria, Democratic Republic of Congo and South Africa.

As of March 10, eleven countries in Africa have reported cases, although the number of cases remains remarkably small, despite the fact that China is Africa’s largest trading partner. All the index cases in Africa are travelers from Europe – non-Africans.

Somehow with weak public health systems, teeming cities, and inescapable poverty, assumption is that coronavirus would have spread like wildfire in Africa with no real agreement as why this has not happened in the continent since the outbreak.

Propositions include successful efforts by African states to control and monitor travelers from virus hot spots, the fact that Africa’s young population makes it less vulnerable to the virus.