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13.03.2020 Europe

Cry of alarm on coronavirus from French journalists based in Italy

By Sabina Castelfranco - RFI
REUTERS/Manuel Silvestri
LISTEN MAR 13, 2020
REUTERS/Manuel Silvestri

Two dozen French correspondents working in Italy have signed a chilling letter to President Emmanuel Macron, warning that the chaos which they have witnessed in the Italian health sector risks being repeated in France.

The journalists' message to the French president begins with the statement that the signatories have been reporting on the coronavirus epidemic since the start of the crisis in Italy.

They have watched the extraordinarily rapid spread of the disease, and have recorded the observations of Italian health professionals.

They paint a picture of "the tragic situation in the hospitals, with intensive care units completely swamped, the weakest patients being sacrificed because of an insufficient supply of respiratory support equipment".

They continue by saying that they consider it a professional obligation to inform the French and European authorities of the level of danger which this crisis presents, so that they can take the essential preventive measures in time.

Public unprepared for catastropic impact
The journalists warn that they have been shocked by the gulf between the catastrophic situation which they are reporting on a daily basis in Italy, and the complete unpreparedness of French public opinion for the inevitable impact of the coronavirus, which the vast majority of public health experts agree will be massive.

The letter goes on to warn against major misconceptions.

It is wrong to believe that only the old and otherwise fragile are at high risk.

The Italian emergency services have seen cases in the 40-45 age group in intensive care, many of the victims fit and well apart from the viral infection which now threatens their lives.

The Italian-based French journalists also warn that hospitals, overwhelmed by the coronavirus epidemic, will be unable to deal with those who are injured in accidents or otherwise seriously ill.

This has already happened in some of the worst-hit regions in Italy.

The writers end by calling on the French authorities to learn the lessons from the Italian experience, before it is too late.

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