To find news in Italy about the coronavirus on February 20 of last year, you had to wait until page 15 of the ‘Corriere della Sera’, in which a cruise ship was reported blocked in Japan due to several cases of contagion, or at 16 of ‘La Repubblica’, where it was even speculated with a near end for the epidemic detected in the Chinese city of Wuhan. Covid-19 was then seen as something very distant, a remote threat that worried only those who traveled to the Asian giant regularly. The reality, on the other hand, was quite different: the pathogen responsible for the fact that in the last year about half a million people have died in the European Economic Area (EU plus Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein), a similar figure to the inhabitants of the city of Murcia.
At mid-morning on that February 20, Mattia Maestri was admitted to the hospital in Codogno, a town in Lombardy (northern Italy). A 37-year-old worker in a multinational company, Maestri is a healthy and strong guy who regularly practices sports, but suffers from very serious pneumonia. “We were dying,” recalls Dr. Annalisa Malara, the doctor who decided to hospitalize him in the ICU and test him for the coronavirus, something that was not covered by the protocols at that time. “Seeing it today it seems incredible and absurd, but neither did we health workers then have to protect ourselves with masks,” says Malara.
“PCR was only performed on those who came from the contagious areas of China or had been in contact with affected people. But when we confirmed that Mattia was infected, we learned that the virus was already circulating in Italy, so we raised the alarm throughout Europe. This allowed measures to be taken to protect the population, “says the doctor, who along with another colleague from the Codogno hospital was awarded by the Head of State, Sergio Mattarella, with the decoration of Knight of the Italian Republic in recognition to their dedication and work.
- Sad forerunner.
Mattia Maestri, a 37-year-old worker in a multinational company, was the first case diagnosed
The discovery of the so-called ‘patient 1’ in Italy marked the beginning of the nightmare that the Old Continent began to live and from which it has not yet fully awakened, despite the fact that it has been a month and a half since the campaign began. vaccination in the countries of the European Union. For Maestri, who managed to overcome the disease after spending three weeks in the ICU, everything he has experienced during the last year has not taken away his optimism. “I am convinced that we will return to normal soon,” he says in an interview with the Rai. «Physically I am very well. I am one of the lucky ones who has no particular consequences. I’ve gone back to doing the things I did before, ”he explains. His best memory of 2020 is the birth of Giulia, his first daughter, who came into the world shortly after he left the hospital.
Stefano Fusco’s life has also changed this past year, whose grandfather died last March at the age of 85 in the province of Bergamo, one of the areas of Italy and Europe hardest hit by the pandemic during the first wave. The pain of the death and the doubt as to whether this and many other deaths could have been avoided led him to create a page on social networks. From her was born the association ‘We will denounce-Truth and justice for the victims of Covid-19’, which represents more than 1,000 families and has promoted the opening of an investigation in the courts of Bergamo. Justice is investigating to clarify whether the national pandemic was activated as of January 5, 2020, when the World Health Organization (WHO) raised the alarm for the appearance of a serious pneumonia of unknown origin. Also in the spotlight is the delay in quarantining the Bergamo municipalities of Nembro and Alzano Lombardo, an area of high economic activity, despite the fact that a coronavirus outbreak had been detected in them.
«It has been a very difficult year, full of moments of stress, tears and also discussions. The strangest thing is that the normal sensation of the passage of time has completely altered me. There are moments when I think that twenty years have passed since the pandemic began and others that I think only two weeks have passed, “says Fusco, who blames the mistakes made during the management of the pandemic on the” very low level of the political class that we have in Italy.
For Malara, who does not believe that in his country the health crisis has been managed worse than in other European nations, this last year will also be difficult to forget. «Professionally my life has changed radically. We have gone to the hospital every day with the fear of catching ourselves or infecting our loved ones. Working conditions, which were already difficult, have become even harsher with protection devices. And in my personal life I lack the same things as others. I hope that soon we can hug and kiss each other again, organize a dinner with friends or plan a vacation, “says the hopeful doctor, although not daring to imagine an end to the pandemic in a few months due to mutations in the pathogen.
Promote vaccination, the first task of the new Draghi Government
During the first wave of the pandemic in Europe, which began now a year ago, Italy was the reference for the rest of the Old Continent when it came to checking how Covid-19 was progressing and what measures were taken to try to stop it. Today Italy is one of the European nations that has put the most vaccines in relation to its population, although the pace could accelerate even more if some regions get away with it and start buying vials on their own. It is an initiative that some rich territories such as Veneto and Emilia-Romagna are considering, although it raises doubts both in Brussels, in charge of negotiating the block acquisition of serum for all the countries of the European Union, and in Rome, which then distributes the drugs to the regions, which have transferred health powers.
Promoting the vaccination campaign will be precisely one of the first responsibilities of the new head of Government, Mario Draghi, who this Saturday was sworn in with his 23 ministers before the President of the Republic, Sergio Mattarella. In the Health portfolio repeats Roberto Speranza, from the small leftist Free and Equal party and one of the members of the previous Executive in whom the citizens trusted the most. The new Cabinet, in the preparation of which Draghi has had to seek a balance between the parties that make up the broad coalition that supports it, will submit to a motion for investiture in Parliament in the coming days.