The coronavirus outbreak in Italy forced Rome to bring the whole country into a shut down in a desperate attempt to rein in the spread of the deadly virus. The latest reports from the Italian Ministry of Health state 10,149 people have tested positive for COVID-19 in the past month and 631 patients have died. Prof Giacomo Grasselli, who has been coordinating efforts across intensive care units (ICUs) in the country, said the virus hit “worse than a bomb” in some regions of Italy as he warned the situation remains “critical.”
Speaking to Channel 4 News, Prof Grasselli said: “The situation is critical because we have a huge number of patients currently being treated in the ICU and in our hospitals.
“I know the situation in the ICUs very well because I’m coordinating the network of COVID-19 ICUs. We now have around 600 patients being treated in the ICU in about 50-55 dedicated ICUs and we have treated more than 700 patients from the start of the epidemic.
“If you think that in Lombardy the total number of ICU beds was about 800-850 before the crisis, you can understand it’s an incredible threat to the system.”
Dr Grasselli suggested surrounding countries, as well as neighbouring regions, have only seen the secondary effects of the coronavirus on their citizens compared to the hotbed in Lombardy.
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He continued: “What happened in Lombardy is just like a bomb. The region has a very high density of population.
“All those people come and go from Milan every day, they are connected to every part of Europe so that’s where the epidemic started.
“At least for now, surrounding countries are seeing the metastasis of this, not the centre of the disease. Even in the surrounding regions and the rest of Italy, the number of critical patients are smaller than in Lombardy.”
Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte announced on Monday the whole country would be put under lockdown to help contain the coronavirus.
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Mr Conte unleashed a series of new precautionary measures dubbed the “I Stay at Home” decree urging residents to stay home as much as possible and only go outside to buy food and necessary items.
Workers who need to travel in between cities have been asked to sign auto-certification forms outlining their reasons for being outside, with those found to be misleading the Police risking a fine or imprisonment.
The Lombardy region and its 16 million residents were put under quarantine at the weekend following from an earlier decision to shut down the centres of the epidemic, Codogno and the Lodigiano area.
But health officials on Tuesday reported for the first time since the lockdown began that no new case of COVID-19 was recorded in Codogno.
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The decision to put Italy in lockdown spurred Austria to shut down the Brenner pass connecting the two countries to all passenger trains.
Chancellor Sebastian Kurz announced the measures on Tuesday, confirming those travellers seeking to leave Italy will only be allowed into Austria with a GP note of good health, and only if they agree to a two-week period of self-isolation.
Italy is also believed to be considering shutting down all factories and shops bar supermarkets and chemists to further contain the outbreak.
Professor Massimo Galli, who specialises in infectious diseases at the University of Milan told RTE: “Italy should be a warning to everybody, everywhere.
“We have an epidemic because of one person who returned with an infection in an asymptomatic phase and it spread underground in the ‘red zone’.”
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