Why Italy? The factors behind a coronavirus disaster
Experts list a number of reasons, from Italy’s relatively high age to its tense health system and some old-fashioned bad luck, adding to a disaster that has not been seen in generations.
Neither answer alone explains why the nation of 60 million accounts for more than a third of the nearly 11,500 officially reported deaths in the strong world of 7.7 billion.
But other countries will want to examine each of these factors and address them through various preventive measures in their offers to avoid becoming the next Italy.
One of the first factors that almost everyone who observes the figures point out is the average age of Italians.
The average age of the general population was 45.4 years last year, higher than anywhere else in Europe.
It is also seven years older than the average age in China and slightly higher than that of South Korea.
Figures released on Friday showed that the age of Italians dying from COVID-19 averaged 78.5.
Nearly 99 percent of them also suffered from at least one pre-existing condition or condition.
Italy’s death rate among people infected with the virus is therefore a relatively high 8.6 percent.
“COVID-19 deaths are strongly affecting older age groups,” Oxford University professor Jennifer Dowd said on Twitter.
“Countries with larger populations will need to take more aggressive protective measures to stay below the threshold of critical cases that exceed the capabilities of the health system,” Dowd said.
However, Japan’s median age of 47.3 makes it an even older nation than Italy, and it has only 35 officially recorded deaths.
So age is clearly not the only factor.
Some scientists think that it really could have been almost any other country after China.
“I think the question of ‘Why Italy?’ it is the most important question and it has a simple answer: there is no reason, “Yascha Mounk of Johns Hopkins University told CBC television in Canada.
“The only thing that makes Italy different is that the first two cases (transmitted locally) arrived in Italy about 10 days before reaching Germany, the United States or Canada.”
More than 4,000 people have died in Italy in the month since a 78-year-old builder from the Lombardy region of Milan became the first known European fatality of COVID-19.
European nations like Spain and France are now following Italy’s path and in theory could have as many deaths and infections in a few weeks.
“If other countries are not going to react exactly the right way, they will become Italy,” said Mounk.
The sad reality learned in the devastated northern Italy is that diseases begin to spread much faster once the health system reaches its saturation point.
Doctors have to start making life-and-death decisions about who they help first, and why, when they run out of equipment like respirators and even beds.
“Sometimes you have to weigh the chances of success against the patient’s condition,” the head of the Brescia hospital emergency unit, Paolo Terragnoli, told AFP this week.
“We try to do what’s best for everyone, while doing something extra for those who have better opportunities.”
Old and frail patients who are rejected are extremely contagious and, tragic but realistic, they are destined to die.
One of the most serious fears from the Italian government is that the virus will begin to spread to much poorer and much less equipped southern Italy.
The world has suddenly realized that it does not have enough test kits to detect COVID-19.
Nations like Italy dealt with this problem by testing only those who already had symptoms like fever and dry cough.
South Korea had the kits and the means to conduct more than 10,000 tests a day.
Germany followed a similar pattern, and its death rate began to decline once even mild COVID-19 infections began to count.
This partially explains why Italy’s death rate is so high and why COVID-19 was contained faster in some other countries.
Harvard University professor Michael Mina said 100,000 tests per day “could be optimal” for a country like the United States.