I was kind of hoping not to have to write another installment of ‘What’s going in Italy’, but sadly, with most of the country now going back into lockdown, I guess that just isn’t meant to be. So, here goes…
Cases have been rising across Italy for the past three weeks, although the rate of that rise has been slowing for the past seven days, which suggests the peak is close. We are also at a far lower rate than in the second wave that hit in the autumn.
We have a new government, or a new leader of the government at least, with Giuseppe Conte having been ousted and replaced by Mario Draghi. In terms of virus management though, nothing much has changed.
Italy has a colour-coded zonal system, whereby the government analyses 21 data points at the end of every week (using two-week old data for some reason… hence reacting only now, when the graph above clearly shows that cases were rising sharply two weeks ago) and on the basis of those data points determines whether each of the Regions should be Yellow, Orange or Red, with Red being the most severe lockdown and Yellow relatively mild. Recently, closures have started to be made on a more local basis too, so instead of shutting down a whole Region, individual provinces have been shut down where necessary.
Under the new government, this colour system remains in place, but they have added some more colours, or more precisely, new shades, to make the map look a little prettier… we now have Dark Orange, Dark Red and White. Oh, and as of this weekend, Yellow has become Orange, which means we don’t have Yellow anymore. So, if Orange has replaced Yellow, then Dark Orange must now be Orange. Red is still Red though. And Dark Red? I have no idea.
In summary, we are pretty much where we were exactly a year ago. Piemonte, like much of the country, is now Red, which means schools are closed, parks are shut, we can only leave home for essential reasons or for exercise (so long as it’s close to home) and we must always fill in a form stating why we are out.
Rather frighteningly, there has been a lot of talk of wanting to follow ‘The Codogno Model’. Codogno, in case you don’t remember, is a small town outside of Milan and was the first place in Italy, and the first place outside of China, to suffer an outbreak. The whole town was shut down for weeks, with the military guarding all roads in and out. Obviously, it didn’t work as the virus wasn’t contained. Despite this, and with all the knowledge you would hope we might have accrued over the past year, the government is now suggesting we should follow the so-called ‘Codogno Model’ to get the latest outbreak under control. It’s not totally clear how they would do this, but even the fact that it is being suggested is terrifying. It didn’t work a year ago and we know a lot more now (or at least we should), so why on earth would anyone want to do that?
So, as the rest of the world looks to the future, and maybe a life after the virus, Italy is looking back to the heady days of failing to control it by shutting down towns and locking people in their homes.
And then there’s the vaccine… The minister originally in charge of vaccines has, thankfully, been relieved of his duty, but not before he spent millions on advertising and tents with flowers on them (no, really) while completely neglecting to do any actual planning. The new guy has ditched all the marketing material (if you want a flowery tent, there are some cheap ones on ebay.it right now) and has also figured out that we might need people to administer the vaccines, which is progress. Originally, only doctors were allowed to do it, and there simply aren’t enough doctors to administer 500,000 vaccines a day, so they are now hoping to change the law so that nurses and members of the armed forces can administer them too. There is still a massive shortage of vaccines across the EU, but hopefully once they start to arrive in greater numbers there might actually be a plan in place to administer them. We’ll have to wait and see on that one though. Italy has a lot going for it, but organisation has never been one of the country’s strong points.
And that’s where we are… locked down again, waiting for things to improve and hoping the vaccination programme might actually get properly underway some time soon.