Can other countries learn from Italy?
Experts say that other countries can learn from both Italy’s mistakes and its successes. The Italian experience of COVID-19 emphasizes the importance of early intervention in countries that have yet to experience a significant outbreak, experts say. While the first case was only discovered on Feb. 20, the virus was spreading undetected throughout the country for two to three weeks before the initial case was reported, hampering early health interventions that could have mitigated the spread of the virus.
Some say that even once discovered, Italian authorities were too slow to implement lockdown measures, for fear of compromising an already fragile national economy. “The Italian experience shows that other countries can no longer underestimate the problem and must learn from our errors,” Cartabellotta says. But experts say there is also a lot the world can learn from what Italy did right.
The decrease in the number of newly reported cases can largely be attributed to the intense lockdown measures implemented by the Italian government, which has shut down most establishments as well as non-essential production and has restricted all unnecessary movement throughout the country.
Cartabellotta says these measures have reduced “the transmission of the virus, delayed the peak of the epidemic, reduced its size, and spread cases over a longer period of time to allow the health system to properly prepare and better manage symptomatic cases.” While Italy was slow to detect the virus, Riccardo says the government moved relatively quickly once the virus was discovered. “Italy set up a very aggressive policy both in terms of contact tracing and investigation and scaling up measures to prepare for the increased demand in terms of care,” she says.
While rates of testing vary from region to region, Italy on the whole has performed more tests than other European Union countries. Casani, a health director of a clinic, says he along with other doctors have realized the importance of treating COVID-19 in its early stages.
The first stage of the virus, which involves the appearance of flu-like symptoms, is an important moment for intervention. As the disease progresses, patients can experience a hyper inflammatory response which requires intensive care. Casani says that in order for countries to avoid unnecessary suffering and overburdening of their health care systems, health intervention is needed before the disease progresses.
Beyond what Italy did right and wrong, Riccardo says Italy’s outbreak—and its above average mortality rate—shows the world just how dangerous the virus can be. “At the end of February, the world was looking at us and saying this cannot be possible, there must be something wrong with the Italian healthcare system” Riccardo says. But now that countries around the world are facing their own outbreaks, “they know that we are looking at a pathogen that is very capable of spreading and causing severe illness and death.”
Excerpt from Times.com