A coronavirus cautionary tale from Italy: Don’t do what we did

Many of us were too selfish to follow suggestions to change our behavior. Now we’re in lockdown and people are needlessly dying.

An Italian journalist is warning Britons to ‘stay home’ amid the coronavirus pandemic as one of the country’s top doctors warns Covid-19 is ‘apocalyptic’.

The stark pleas to ban mass gatherings, avoid contact with others, and self-isolate in the UK and US come as 60million Italians endure a national lockdown. 

Mattia Ferraresi, who writes for Il Foglio, has argued the Italian Government wasted time in not acting decisively and drastically early on.

He said that Italy‘s universal healthcare system has been ‘felled’ by Covid-19, which has infected 17,000 confirmed cases in the Mediterranean country. 

The Italian journalist described life in the lockdown as an ‘exercise in humility’ and urged Britons to sacrifice ‘individual freedom in order to protect everybody’. 

Writing in The Boston Globenewspaper, Mr Ferraresi, of Rome, said: ‘Until last week, the Italian public healthcare system had the capacity to care for everyone.

‘Our country has universal healthcare, so patients aren’t turned away from hospitals here. But in a matter of days, the system was being felled by a virus that I, and many other Italians, had failed to take seriously.

‘It didn’t have to come to this. We of course couldn’t stop the emergence of a previously unknown and deadly virus. 

‘But we could have mitigated the situation we are now in, in which people who could have been saved are dying. I, and too many others, could have taken a simple yet morally loaded action: We could have stayed home.’

He blasted ‘less-than-urgent appeals to the public’ by Governments across the planet to make small behavioural changes, arguing ‘when the terrible outcomes they are designed to prevent… become evident, it’s generally too late to act’.  

‘When everybody’s health is at stake, true freedom is to follow instructions,’ he said.

Elsewhere, Giuseppe Natalini – head of intensive care at the Fondazione Poliambulanza Hospital in Brescia –  called Italy’s crisis ‘catastrophic, unimaginable’.

He told The Times newspaper: ‘If someone had told me on February 21 that today we would be in this situation, I would not have believed it.

‘Two or three weeks ago I would have considered the strict measures that have been in place in Italy disproportionate and alarmist. Now, absolutely not.’ 

Dr Natalini added: ‘You’d be fools to get burnt like us.’ 

Italy became the first country in Europe last week to impose a lockdown to combat the spreading Covid-19 illness as more than 17,000 people are infected.

The Mediterranean country’s death toll hit over 1,200 – making Italy the worst-hit country outside of China, where the disease first incubated. 

Under current lockdown rules, shops – except pharmacies, supermarkets, and newsagents – are to remain closed at all times. 

People are now working from home, while staff required to go to their offices must sign a certificate submitted and vetted by Italian police.

Schools and universities, which closed on March 4, are expected to remain shut until April 3. Transgressors face three months in jail, and a fine. 

Transgressors who break the emergency rules face three months in jail and a fine.