On January 29, when Italy detected and isolated its first coronavirus cases – two Chinese tourists – authorities were sure they had put together the safest protection system in Europe.
The following day, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte immediately declared a state of emergency for six months, and made Italy the first country to block flights from China. “We can reassure all the citizens, the situation is under control,” he said. “We expected cases in Italy too.”
But by March 11, the country had the second-highest number of infections outside China. In a press conference where the number of journalists was limited to prevent the spread of the virus, the head of the Italian Civil Protection Angelo Borrelli laid out the latest figures. Barely twenty days after the first locally transmitted case, authorities had confirmed 12,462 cases, 827 people had died and 1,028 were in intensive care units.
With the epidemic now rapidly spreading to other European countries – France, Germany and the UK have recorded sharp rises in cases – Italy’s experience is serving as a case study and a warning for other governments about how quickly and decisively they need to act. But how did this happen? Why did Italy have so many deaths so quickly? And most of all, could this have been prevented?
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