In Italy, the heart of the European outbreak of COVID-19, Lombardy’s most vulnerable and those trying to keep them healthy are feeling the worst of the contagion’s effects. Due to many factors, such as the lack of equipment, little to no protocol of how to handle a pandemic and consequently, insufficient training for self protection and sterilisation of equipment by nurses and caregivers, many retirement homes in northern Italy are on the front lines of the pandemic, increasing the mortality rate and causing many hospitals to overrun with elderly patients in critical condition. Workers in nursing homes are contracting the virus, some bringing it home with them and infecting their own families, as is the case with doctors and other care providers nationwide; FNOMCeO, (the national organisation of doctors and healthcare professionals) reported 109 Doctors and at least 40 Nurses have died as a consequence of contracting coronavirus, with at least 3700 confirmed infected since early april. Some facilities act as “hotspots” for flu-like viruses, such as schools, many tourist locations, bars, and elderly homes, and while many of these places can be closed temporarily, elderly homes require more care now than ever. With so many elderly in dangerously close proximity to coronavirus, some cities are overflowing with senior deceased, such as Bergamo and Brescia, two cities in the worst struck parts of Italy. Compounding the situation also, doctors momentarily cannot visit patients in their homes due to the dangers of contracting the virus, as a result, many patients may begin to suffer from multiple health issues, a known complication leading to more risk of severe SARS-COVID-2 symptoms. But cases nationwide are expected to rise from this years easter weekend. The deep rooted traditions of family and recent trends of people leaving their houses unnecessarily resulting in thousands of daily fines, have caused policy makers and epidemiologists to worry for the populations most vulnerable. “The situation will get worse if people don’t stay in their homes” warns the Minister of health, Secretary of hospitals in Lombardy, and the Prime Minister. “Our nation has one of the worlds highest life expectancies” a Milanese geriatric doctor reports proudly. “But now more than ever, the elderly of our country need protecting”. In light of good news though, the number of reported cases is slowly dropping, seemingly hopping like a skimming stone downstream, with a small rise, then a steady drop forming the statistical trend. The most important thing for people to remember in this time is to maintain proper distancing techniques, hand washing and keep in contact with ‘close ones’ via social media only, and this way we can ride out the storm together.
written by Ashley Dry