On 16th March 2020, the world witnessed probably one of its most significant sights. We woke up to the Pope walking a deserted street of Rome defying quarantine orders. He walked along with his entourage and prayed for the end of the pandemic at two famous Italian Churches- Church of San Marcello and the Church of Saint Mary Major. The two symbols of Christian faith, a Cross and an Icon is believed to have helped Italy tide over similar problems in 1522 AD and in 521 AD. However, the questions still remain, can God and the Pope prevent Italy and the world from the deadly Coronavirus or COVID 19?
As we are writing this, deaths in Italy have breached the 4000 marks. It has comfortably overtaken China, which has been able to plateau the pandemic. Just to put some figures into perspective, as on March 20, 2020, Italy’s fight against Coronavirus has resulted in-
- 47,021 Positive Coronavirus Cases
- 4,032 Deaths from Coronavirus
- The single-day surge of over 6000 positive cases in one day (March 20, 2020)
- 5,129 Recovered Cases from Coronavirus
- 627 Deaths in a Single Day (highest) on March 20, 2020.
Why the problem of Coronavirus is so disastrous in Italy?
According to reports, Italy invests 6.8% of its GDP into Health. This is significantly lower than that of France and Germany. It means that there aren’t enough hospitals, doctors or medical infrastructure like ventilators to help people during times like these.
Another reason for the severity of the problem is because Italy has a high percentage of older adults. According to Lorenzo Casani, Health Director of a clinic in severely hit Lombardy, “Italy is the oldest country in the oldest continent in the world.” 23% of Italy’s population is over the age of 65! Compare the same to the US, where it is 16%.
The majority of cases and deaths are happening in people who are over the age of 65+. In addition, the virus attacks people who already have certain pre-existing health conditions. Two conditions, cardiovascular health (heart issues) and diabetes are more prone to the Coronavirus or COVID 19.
Many experts have also attested to the fact that Coronavirus in Italy is fledging on account of the poor air quality in Northern Italy. High levels of pollution have contributed to respiratory issues. A Swiss study found that 24 of Europe’s 100 Most Polluted Cities are in Italy.
What does the Coronavirus mean for Italy’s Future?
Economic experts have pointed out that Italy is going to witness a severe Economic Depression during and after the Coronavirus pandemic. Even before the outbreak, Italy’s debt stood at 1345% of its GDP. Post the COVID 19 problem, the county is poised to enter one of its worst periods of recession.
The Italian Tourism Industry, one of the core contributors to the GDP is estimating losses upwards of $10 Billion due to the COVID 19. The government is trying to do their bit by suspending Mortgages and Taxes during these troubling times. However, no income and increased public spending is going to stretch the Italian economy in a major way.
The Italian government was one of the first ones to announce an Economic Relief Package for its citizens. They announced an $8.5 Billion Fund to local families and businesses who are going to suffer as a result of Italy’s lockdown from Coronavirus.
Could the Italian Government have acted earlier to prevent this?
It would be unjust to say that Italy did not have an action plan to contain the spread of COVID 19. Contrarily, the government set up a Task Force to deal with Coronavirus before the first reported case had occurred.
The Health Ministry had already prepared a roadmap to deal with probable problems. Flights to and from China were also banned very early on. However, as panic spread, people thought that Italy is going to close down its borders. Many people took connecting flights and flew into Italy without disclosing their travel history.
Italy continues to be under lockdown. All its 60 million inhabitants have been advised home quarantine. All public spaces, schools, malls, churches, playgrounds, tourist attractions have been shut.
God or Science: Who is going to rescue Italy from the Coronavirus?
Scientists and medical practitioners are saying that the next two weeks are going to be extremely critical for Italy. The country is adopting all measures possible to help its citizens overcome the deadly COVID 19.
There have been stories about how medical experts are selecting people who should get immediate medical services. In other words, they are calculating between older affected patients and younger ones. Who means more? Whose life is more worthy?
As there is a severe dearth of medical equipment, doctors and health staff are playing God, deciding who gets to live and who dies.
Italy needs all the help that it can get- God, the Pope, and Science