The Wuhan coronavirus in Italy

Italy is the western nation most hard hit by the Wuhan coronavirus so far. The outbreak began in the north, and the northern regions began locking down first. For example, in late February, soccer matches were cancelled in Milan and Bergamo but held in Rome and Naples.

Information about the incidence of the virus in Italy, and deaths thought to be caused by it, is widely available. However, I haven’t seen reporting of these numbers by region.

I thought that regional data might be instructive, or at least interesting. I found some here. It shows that nearly half of the reported cases in Italy have come from the Lombardy region in the north where the first reported cases came from. Lombardy includes Milan and extends north to the lake region. As of yesterday, Lombardy accounted for almost 28,000 cases.

Next came the Emilia-Romagna region with about 7,500 reported cases. This, too, is a northern region. It begins south of Milan and ends north of Florence. Bologna is in the center.

Then came the Veneto region and the Piedmont region with around 5,000 and 4,500 cases, respectively. The Veneto region is in the northeast. It extends from Verona in the west to Venice in the east. The Piedmont region is also northern. It begins a little west of Milan. Turin is in its center.

In southern areas of Italy, the number of reported cases is quite low so far. For example, the Campania region that includes Naples (population more than 2 million) reported 936 cases. The Lazio region with Rome (population more than 4 million) at its center reported 1,383. Sicily (population around 5 million) reported 630.

These numbers reflect a substantial increase in the past ten days, however. According to reports, southern Italy is “bracing” for a “tsunami” of Wuhan coronavirus cases. Thousands of people apparently fled south after Lombardy was quarantined. The entire country was put under lockdown on March 9 and rules were tightened on March 11.

Southern Italy is poorer than the north, and its hospitals are said to be less well equipped to cope with a large-scale outbreak of this virus. Thus, Italy’s fatality rate might actually increase if, in fact, there is tsunami of cases in the south. And because large and populous areas of the country have not yet been hit hard, Italy has considerable room for growth in its total number of cases.

Vo’ Euganeo, a town in Veneto where the first Italian is said to have died from the virus, reportedly curbed the spread of the virus there through aggressive testing. If aggressive testing can be done in the south, perhaps the spread of the virus there can be minimized.

The more one reads about the experience of other countries, the more it seems that early, aggressive testing is key. The U.S. appears to have failed badly in this regard.

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