Milan and Lombardy are sealed off

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Italy’s Prime Minister Conte imposes «reduced mobility» on large parts of northern Italy and prohibits major events. Travelers can return to where they live.

Milan’s central station is already cordoned off.

Alex Fraser / Reuters

Italy’s government will declare all of Milan and Lombardy and other areas of northern Italy a restricted area. Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte announced this at a press conference during the night. “These measures will bring inconvenience, but this is the moment of self-reliance, not deception.” The main thing is to protect the health of grandparents.

The new measures affect an extensive area south of the Swiss border, namely the whole of Lombardy and 14 other provinces – from Asti in the west to Venice and Rimini in the east. In principle, entering and leaving this zone is prohibited. This does not apply to people who want to get to their place of residence. Within the zone, people should only take to the streets in urgent cases – it is not an absolute prohibition, but a requirement of «reduced mobility». According to media reports, the new restricted areas are to apply from immediately until April 3.

The entire region of Lombardy and 14 northern Italian provinces are affected

All major gatherings and public events are prohibited in the zone. Cinemas, museums, theaters are closed, sporting events are canceled. Sick people with even a slight fever and breathing difficulties should stay at home and call their family doctor. Patients who have tested positive for the coronavirus must never leave the house.

The Prime Minister has signed the new legislative decree; it can only officially enter into force on Monday with the publication of the official gazette. A preliminary, unfinished draft had already leaked to the media and was immediately presented as a fact. Conte was annoyed; Uncertainty and confusion cannot be used now. The previous “yellow” and “red zones” will be abolished.

20,000 doctors and nurses are called to work after retirement

The Italian government is recalling retired doctors and nurses from retirement; it is hoped that 20,000 additional jobs will be filled very quickly. In northern Italy, the hospitals, particularly the intensive care units, are overwhelmed due to the coronavirus epidemic. According to official information, around 5061 infections were officially confirmed by Saturday evening. 20 percent of all infected people need hospital care, half of these, i.e. 10 percent of all infected people, need intensive care – all in isolation departments. In Lombardy, around 200 new patients receive intensive care every day.

The number of infected people in Italy is increasing rapidly

Number of cases of coronavirus in Italy


The situation is particularly acute in the hospitals of Codogno – here the first epidemic was born – as well as in the neighboring Lodi and in Cremona. According to a report by the Corriere della Sera, there are 110 hospital employees in Lodi as patients in their own hospital. The staff is so thin that the intensive care unit works in 12-hour shifts instead of 8-hour shifts. Physical exhaustion and mental wear and tear can almost be expected. At the San Raffaele hospital in Milan there was a new outbreak of coronavirus in the dialysis department. The whole department was quarantined, which means that it was canceled.

Facial masks are missing in some places, especially in Lombardy, but also elsewhere in Italy. Doctors make throat swabs partially unprotected, with a high risk of infection for themselves. The refusal of Germany and France to help out with face masks is denounced in the Italian media as European unfriendliness.

Military doctors on 6.3. upon arrival in a former military hospital in the Baggio district of Milan. Italy is currently recalling retired medical personnel to care for coronavirus patients.

Military doctors on 6.3. upon arrival in a former military hospital in the Baggio district of Milan. Italy is currently recalling retired medical personnel to care for coronavirus patients.

Andrea Fasani / EPA

The existing medical personnel work at the limit, especially since ten percent of them are contracted by the coronavirus and therefore fail in part. There is a shortage of people at all levels of the medical operation, from doctors to nurses and ambulance drivers to cleaning women – these too need special instructions so that they can protect themselves from infection.

With an increase in the south there is a risk of collapse

The number of cases in the south has been relatively low so far, but there is a risk of a collapse of the healthcare system if the rate of increase increases. Some hospitals are poorly equipped to treat patients with highly contagious infectious diseases, and there is a lack of isolation departments with specially trained staff. This threatens hospital infections and the failure of entire hospitals – which would make treating other illnesses or injuries difficult.

The government wants to avoid an emergency in the south. It is for this reason that Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte decided to close all schools and universities across the country – contrary to the recommendation of his technical and scientific advisory team. The measure is controversial among virologists because, according to the current level of knowledge, the virus is only spread little about children and in most cases they only get sick slightly.

The virus came unnoticed

The issue of why Italy has many more cases than other European countries is also discussed. The general answer is: You weren’t prepared for the corona virus, you didn’t recognize it at first. In the other countries, you were warned and better prepared. Specialists point out four points:

  • The corona virus first spread unnoticed south of Milan, from the end of January. So there was a big outbreak south of Milan.
  • The virus may even have arrived in Italy earlier in January. At that time there was an accumulation of severe pneumonia that persisted as seasonal flu.
  • Coronavirus patients were initially difficult to identify because they had symptoms similar to those of flu patients.
  • In addition, much more corona virus tests have been carried out in Italy than in other countries. So you have found more infected people.

Italy is the «laboratory» for the other European countries in the Corona crisis, doctors say. Defense measures against the spread of the virus would be tested for their effectiveness.

Those responsible operate in blind flight

The government’s measures initially triggered harsh criticism from business associations and football officials, as well as from some regional presidents. The government is causing panic, damaging Italy’s reputation abroad, strangling the northern economy, the accusations were.

Such concerns were partly understandable, partly the shrill accusations were simply motivated by party politics. President Sergio Mattarella backed the government on Thursday night’s television appearance, calling on cross-drivers to be responsible.

For the past two weeks, the responsible politicians have acted in uncertain and approximate terms, such as blind flying in the fog. They could barely assess the risks of the corona virus, and they lacked an overview. On the basis of unreliable, incomplete, contradictory data and recommendations, they had to make far-reaching decisions under time pressure. Under such circumstances, incorrect assessments and decisions can hardly be avoided. Correcting them is difficult in a climate of mutual blame.

Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte mostly kept a cool head in the crisis, he has gained stature in public perception. The government, which is not well established internally, has gathered itself and improved its position and reputation overall. Anyhow, what was done right and what was wrong in the fight against the virus can only be finally assessed in retrospect. The fight against the impending recession is now also beginning. It is assumed that the European Union will allow the Italian state budget to be overshot again. The Italian Economic Commissioner Paolo Gentiloni, an Italian, has already sent out corresponding signals.

Salvini cuts a bad figure in the crisis

The leader of the right-wing opposition, Matteo Salvini, did a bad job. First, he called for the borders to be closed, accusing the government of “not defending Italy” against the virus. Three days later, he accused her of using excessive measures to destroy the country’s economy. Then he tried to overthrow Conte, but found no allies for his opportunistic endeavors, not even on the right. Recently, the three right-wing parties have come up with their own proposals for dealing with the crisis, which they want to discuss with the government.

It remains to be seen whether the measures ordered will stop the advance of the corona virus. So far, the number of new infections has been steadily increasing. In view of the impending epidemic, the government in Rome initially ordered the isolation of two “red zones” and extensive precautionary measures in a “yellow zone” that spanned large parts of northern Italy. Here, public life came to a standstill for long stretches, Milan was like a ghost town for a few days.

There is a shortage of medical staff in the countryside

The supply of the population in the red zones, just over 50,000 inhabitants, could be maintained – with strict protective measures for the suppliers. However, there is a shortage of medical personnel in the affected villages. Anyone who gets sick must not go to hospital because of the risk of infection. But you can wait a long time for a house visit.

The government’s orders sometimes directly affect people’s everyday lives and – at least temporarily – bring about a change in lifestyle and lifestyle. Many have changed their behavior in the past two weeks, on their own and without waiting for instructions from the head of government and the president. You increasingly stay at home. Outside you no longer kiss and hug, you no longer shake hands. You wash your hands often and thoroughly. People go out less, restaurants have fewer guests, cinemas have fewer spectators, and there is no more crowds (apart from rush hour traffic) on the metro and buses. So you can keep a certain distance from the others in public space.

However, worried are infected patients who do not keep the quarantine and stay at home for two weeks, but go out and infect other people. That obviously becomes a problem in Milan and Lombardy.


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