Coronavirus, why Italy?

Roma, Italy April 2020

Just today the official confirmation from an Italian study conducted by Sima: “We can confirm that we have reasonably demonstrated the presence of viral RNA of SARS-CoV-2 on atmospheric particulate matter”. This increase “the persistence of the virus in the atmosphere as already hypothesized on the basis of recent international research. In the so-called ‘phase 2’ it is necessary to take into account the need to keep particulate emissions low”. And this explains better why Lombardia in particular…

Few days ago people were asking why are the cases growing so fast in Italy, and now we wonder why does Italy get so high fatality rate? In any record we encounter, Italy is always above. Many have claimed many different and separate reasons, but maybe the secret is considering (the weight of) all of them.

The huge stress on a good sanitary system (but with many gaps), a genetic mutation of the virus, differences in temperatures and humidity, different way of intergenerational links and social contacts, a catholic impostation in saving lives (at all costs), the presence of more pollutants in the more infected area… except the second one (denied), and the last one suddenly become fundamental, also the others join to explain the particular case of Italy, but two are really incisive, according to the Ispi long-period study, already mentioned in our previous article. Plus one that we want to underline since often overlooked, being difficult to “measure”.

First off, Italy reacted doing a lot of tests. And this change a lot the fatality rate. Even if this procedure wouldn’t been done with a clear and schematic method as it seems that especially South Korea did. Consulting the recent history: until February 28 Regions logically reacted with a massive procedure of tests and this of course showed an initial increase of the epidemic curve compared to other countries “still untouched” (we have already seen that this perception wasn’t true here). More cases because they got the chance to individuate also the famous “asymptomatic”.

Then, after February 28, there was a change in politics due to two reasons. WHO directives and Italy‘s convenience leaded to another logic: do the tests only to symptomatics because even today the Cts (the Italian Scientific and Technical Committee for Emergency) says that “regarding the tests the principle of praticity and sostenibility is effective”. Only 31 labs are authorized to do the “test job” in Italy; and “at times of epidemic expansion, the number of cases grows so rapidly that it may be impossible to swab even the subset of people who are symptomatic and would like to take the test: therefore we proceed by gravity”.

Italy has the fortune or misfortune to be 1-2-3 weeks in the future compared to many other countries (but, again, only in terms of procedures). Everyday debates occurred on which country is doing more, but also Wikipedia remarks the impossibility to have any certainty at the moment: “Due to limited testing, as of March 2020 no countries had reliable data on the prevalence of the virus in their population. As of 22 April, the countries that published their testing data have on average performed a number of tests equal to only 1.2% of their population, and no country has tested samples equal to more than 13% of its population. There are variations in how much testing has been done across countries. This variability is also likely to be affecting reported case fatality rates, which have probably been overestimated in many countries, due to sampling bias”.

But it is like a match. Just few days ago a debate occurs regarding France, that reports 1/3 of the Italian tests. We can’t be sure now, but maybe we can get a sort of idea comparing Italy to Usa. Staying on generic numbers at the moment Italy claims that it has done more than 1million of tests, Usa more than 4, but in any case it has 5 times more people than Italy… 329 millions people vs 60 millions: if these sources (Civil Protection and John Hopkins) can be more or less realistic (to date April 24, 2020) we have Italy at 2,6% and Usa at 1,4%.

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So, if it is true that the old age is an important factor, why is Japan doing much better than Italy? As Asiatimes reports also there the same many reasons are at work… not only the exact opposite social attitude compared to Italians, Spanish or French people, they include also minimal testings, a world-class treatment in pneumonia, but also a tendence to a “don’t ask don’t tell” strategy and unspoken truths (remember Fukushima).

Second important reason, the very old population, that sounds like an excuse, but just taking any past news you will find the confirmation. After Japan, Italy has always been the second oldest country in the world: basing on 2018 data we had 168 elders every 100 young. So, if it is true that “as it is know COVID-19 presents far more risks for the older population”, an a population is weaker in front of the virus, showing this weakness with a larger number of deaths. As it says… HIV has more circulation in a sex active population than not. Furthermore, this “way to see” the data is even valid for the other countries. For example, also the English population is older than the Chinese one, and in fact Uk fatality rate is higher than China, but Italians are mediumly older the British and so we are above both.

The average age of deaths is over 80″, also Giovanni Rezza, Research Director at ISS (Italian Istituto Superiore di Sanità), explained the same concept. «When the symptomatic people have been tested it is clear that the denominator is restricted”. In this way “the fatality rate seems higher than it is, but we need to maximize the benefits”.

Then, the thought we want to share considering that few people are taking it in consideration. Actually two. The first is pollution. Just taking the reports presented every year by the English scientific review Lancet, in the latest, year 2019, there was a clear connection between the climate change and the diffusion of infective pathologies. So, it is not so absurd to have a closer look about why Italian pandemic center is just in Lombardia, our “productive center”. In fact, all the four regions interested (in addition to Lombardia, we also have Veneto, Piemonte, Emilia-Romagna) lay down on the Pianura Padana, a huge valley that without no doubt is affected by a higher level of pollution: “typical pollutants like particulate matter, in terms of PM10 and PM2.5, nitrogen dioxide and ozone” is written in the Ispra 2018 study.

These components are already problematic for whatever respiratory condition, but just yesterday night the official confirmation from an Italian study conducted by Sima: “We can confirm that we have reasonably demonstrated the presence of viral RNA of SARSCoV2 on atmospheric particulate matter“. This increase “the persistence of the virus in the atmosphere as already hypothesized on the basis of recent international research. In the so-called ‘phase 2’ it is necessary to take into account the need to keep particulate emissions low“.

Just a frame from the incriminated spot by Confindustria Bergamo that basically invited its partners not to care about coronavirus outbreak in Italy

The second is about human faults… in particular I think about a terrible video (made by the North Italian “confederation of industries”) that suggest investors to forget about coronavirus, basically delivering their workers to the illness. This is also Italy. Also. But we want to believe that this is something that belongs to the past, when money governed everything getting the complete go-ahead… because we see now that this must change.

Also, the sanitary system that is working heroically, but until yesterday it was always divided between excellences and problems and gaps (in every North, South, West, East region!) that we can’t forget now. We can’t forget also the human faults created by a scatterbrained politics that is bowed to a wrong conception of economy. That aim to invest, only in Lombardia, cutting off the territorial sanitary garrisons and favoring the private sector over the public hospitals. This is one of the reason why Veneto (and the other two Regions) are going much better than Lombardia. A full TV investigation explains everything.

During so rushing days maybe it is very difficult to be precise in numbers, but it is very sterile pointing fingers always at the same flaws. Also, we should not speculate on old people or already sick for any reason. This can’t be “exculpatory”. It can just explain better why Italy have this huge number of deaths. But probably the real important thing is the effort in pursuing the right thing, because at the end any truth is just a piece of perception of reality. And there are so many interests inside only one matter that the right thing is like a beacon in the fog.


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