27.03.2020 Europe

Italy's coronavirus concerns turn to south amid cautious optimism in north

By Sabina Castelfranco in Rome - RFI
© REUTERS/Antonio Parrinello
LISTEN MAR 27, 2020
© REUTERS/Antonio Parrinello

Covid-19 concerns in Italy are shifting from the north of the country to areas further south. There are fears that things could change for the worse in regions that have until now been largely unaffected by the coronavirus.

Italy's southern regions are not as well-equipped as the north in terms of hospitals and medical facilities, which is leading to worries that they will be unable to handle a large number of infections. 

Lombardy, the region hardest-hit by Italy's coronavirus epidemic, has shown a sharp drop in the number of deaths and new infections.

But in the area, no one is celebrating quite yet – doctors are still dying and many more health workers are getting infected. And the numbers are still high.

Addressing a nearly empty parliament, the Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said, “The spread of the coronavirus epidemic has triggered an unprecedented crisis in Italy and Europe which is putting our country to a very hard test."

There was a round of applause when the premier expressed his condolences for the victims of the coronavirus crisis.

Italy has the highest number of fatalities of country in the world, with more than 8,200 deaths as of Friday afternoon. On Thursday, there was some optimism after the rate of coronavirus infections slowed for fourth day, but figures went up again that evening.

But there is hope that the tough lockdown measures that have been put in place across the country are starting to deliver the desired effects. But no Italian is kidding themselves. They know there is still a long way to go.

Extraordinary Urbi et Orbi
The Catholic Church has not been immune to the virus either with a monsignor living inside the same residence as Pope Francis testing positive. He is the fifth person inside the Vatican to have contracted the virus and is being treated in a Rome hospital.

In the meantime, Pope Francis is taking all the necessary precautions, eating alone in his room and keep a social distance when he meets with anyone in the residence. His public appearances have been cancelled and he is conducting his general audiences via television and the internet.

On Friday, he is scheduled to give special prayer and extraordinary “Urbi et Orbi” blessing from Saint Peter's Basilica in front of an empty square.

While many countries are now struggling with their own internal coronavirus crises, Italians feel others should have learned from their experience and reacted earlier.

Fausto Rossi, 38, first showed symptoms of the disease on 5 March and went into intensive care at Latina hospital. He has now completely recovered, after 18 days. He said he has always been very healthy and has no idea how he contracted Covid-19.

He says no one can be too careful with the coronavirus because it “walks on the legs of people with no symptoms”.

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