At the time of writing, Italy has registered 63,927 cases combined with 6,077 deaths. The majority of cases have mostly been located in the northern regions of the country, specifically Lombardy. Within the region, is the city of Bergamo which has been identified as the worst-hit city and is where Serie A football team Atalanta is based.
Atalanta played Valencia in the UEFA Champions League on February 19 just 14 days before the outbreak and, according to Francesco Le Foche, this match may have increased the number of cases which have now ravaged the region.
The head of the Immunoinfectivology Day Hospital, at the Policlinico Umberto I La Sapienza University of Rome said: “The virus was emphasised with the football match Atalanta-Valencia.
“After two weeks, there was an explosive increase of cases.
“Now after 30 days, we are starting to see a significant reduction in new cases.
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“What we can say to explain the numbers is that the area around Bergamo is highly industrialised and exposed to greater exchanges with Europe.
“This very high rate of contacts, including international ones, may have favoured, already in early January, a first spread of the virus, initially taken into little consideration as it was almost considered ‘a Chinese problem’.”
On March 16, Valencia confirmed 35 percent of their squad had tested positive for COVID-19.
Although the return leg of the fixture was played behind closed doors in Valencia, 35,000 people travelled from Bergamo to Milan to watch the first of the two-match tie.
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In support of the theory, Massimo Galli of the Sacco Hospital in Milan said having thousands of people crammed into the stadium would have been an important factor in the spread of the virus.
He said: “I think that the pandemic had started before in the countryside.
“But having tens of thousands of people concentrated in the same area because of this match means could certainly have been an important vector of contagion.”
Following the rapid rise in the outbreak, Italy was placed into a nationwide lockdown to stop the spread of COVID-19.
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Such is the critical situation on the country’s healthcare system, a team of doctors trained in dealing with Ebola arrived from Cuba on Sunday to help with the situation.
The Russian military is also to send assistance to the country’s worst affected areas in order to help with the outbreak.
Italy’s outbreak has been particularly potent due to the high proportion of elderly people in the country.
There is an estimated 23 percent of people aged over 65 in the country, only Japan has an older population in the world.
In order to stop the outbreak in the UK, Boris Johnson has also issued a countrywide lockdown.
Social gatherings must be avoided while the public must only leave their shops to visit supermarkets, supermarkets or if they are classified as an essential worker.
Additional writing by Maria Ortega.
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