How Italy manages to contain the second wave of coronavirus

Since the beginning of September, Italy has recorded five times fewer cases of contamination per day than France and Spain

  • Europe has been facing, since the beginning of September, the second wave of the coronavirus epidemic, which has already claimed more than a million lives worldwide.
  • If Italy was one of the European countries most affected during the first wave, it is now the one that is doing best with less than 2,000 cases of contamination per day, against 10,000 on average in France and Spain.
  • Restrictive measures, more effective testing strategy, traumatized population… “20 Minutes” takes stock of the Italian exception.

If Europe is currently facing the second wave of the coronavirus epidemic, Italy is an exception, with less than 2,000 daily cases of contamination, thanks to strict measures put in place for several months and welcomed by the WHO last week.

“Italy was the first Western country to be strongly affected by Covid-19. The government and the community, at all levels, have risen to the task and reversed the trajectory of the epidemic with a series of measures based on scientific data, ”said the World Health Organization (WHO), this Friday, on his Twitter account.

#Italy was the first Western country to be heavily affected by # COVID19. The government & community, across all levels, reacted strongly & turned around the trajectory of the epidemic with a series of science-based measures. This video tells the story of experience.

— World Health Organization (WHO) (@WHO) September 25, 2020

First country affected, first country to respond

Although very badly affected during the first wave of the coronavirus epidemic, the peninsula seems to be doing well in recent weeks. While France (8,051 cases in the last 24 hours) and Spain (10,799) have recorded, on average, nearly 10,000 daily cases of contamination since the beginning of September, in Italy, the number of daily contagions remains quite low.

How to explain this Italian specificity? According to specialists, the strict measures taken by the Italian government have made it possible to contain the circulation of the virus. “The epidemic hit Italy earlier, which was very aware of the problem and immediately put in place a very severe containment plan. Italy was the first European country to implement a total closure that lasted several weeks (…) and we are still benefiting from it ”, explained Professor Massimo Andreoni, renowned infectious disease specialist at the Roman hospital of Tor Vergata in AFP, highlighting “the very gradual and very slow reopening of the country, which is not even finished yet.”

Restrictions reimposed

“The government has not hesitated to reinstate restrictions that had been lifted. And since the deconfinement, many Italians continue to respect the measures put in place during confinement ”, detailed Ludmila Acone, researcher at the University of Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne, specialist in contemporary Italy, with 20 minutes. And for good reason, the stadiums have still not reopened, the nightclubs were closed again in August, the bars and restaurants are operating with very severe measures and the school did not resume until September 14, i.e. two weeks. after France. Since August 16, wearing a mask is now compulsory in all Italian public places where “group formation” can occur, from 6 pm to 6 am. This device has even been reinforced in certain regions, such as Campania and the city of Genoa, where the mask has been compulsory everywhere since September 24.

The another asset of Italy is the tests. If the peninsula tests less than France – 120,000 tests per day in Italy against 180,000 in France – its strategy seems more effective. In Italy, the population can be screened with PCR tests, but also with antigenic and serological tests. While these last two methods are less reliable, they nevertheless allow results to be obtained in thirty minutes and therefore, to isolate infected people much more quickly. “The country is managed by province, and this is an advantage for them because they can trace cases much more easily, province by province,” added Carine Milcent, CNRS researcher and health systems specialist with 20 Minutes .

A traumatized population

And if Italy has succeeded in containing the spread of the virus, it is also because its population has followed the instructions to the letter . “It has often been said that Italians are unruly, but that’s not true. There is a very important civic sense in Italy. The restrictions were applied and respected “, justified Ludmila Acone, adding that” the population itself was very much in demand for these measures “. The specialist in Italy also points to the trauma of the first wave of the epidemic: “In Italy, the shock was immense. The Italians all remember the images of the army sending convoys to evacuate the corpses. They don’t want to relive it. ”

For the Italian doctor and academic Walter Ricciardi, former representative at the WHO, it was” the immediate and rigorous, even disciplinary, alignment of the vast majority of Italian citizens “which enabled the country to avoid a dramatic second wave. “I know Italy doesn’t have a tough country image. But this received idea underestimates an essential element: in emergency situations our fellow citizens have proved that they know how to face the problems with firmness and a certain sense of sacrifice ”, he explained to our colleagues of The Obs .

The epidemic is far from over in Italy. “We will have to look at the figures in several weeks, especially after the resumption of school,” warned Ludmila Acone. With the start of the school year postponed in Italy, it will take several more weeks to see if the peninsula manages to maintain a low circulation of the virus or if it will finally achieve a balance sheet similar to that of its French and Spanish neighbors.