The numbers are dizzying and horrifying. Four hundred and thirty-three dead. Six hundred twenty-seven dead. Seven hundred ninety-three dead.
Italy’s civil protection agency have been providing grim updates on the number of people killed by COVID-19, deepening a sense of gloom in a country that has become the deadliest center of the pandemic.
Despite draconian measures put in place to halt the spread of the virus, Italy has been unable to “flatten the curve”- slowing the spread of the contagion in a bid to prevent an already overburdened health care system from being overrun.
Italy’s latest tally reported a total of 6,078 deaths from 63,928 infections,thus leading the world fatality rate with more than 9 percent. Whiles China, the originators of the virus’s mortality rate stands at 3.8 percent.
Germany has reported more than 24,000 cases and 94 deaths,that which stands at 0.3 percent.
It’s quite alarming as to the rate of coronavirus mortality in Italy, but why is it so?
“The numbers we have are not representative of the entire population”, said Massimo Galli, head of the infectious disease unit at Sacco Hospital in Milan, the main city in the worst hit region of Lombardy where 68 percent of the total national fatalities have been reported.
Galli explained that as the emergency situation rapidly deteriorated over the past month, Italy focused on testing only on people showing severe symptoms in areas with high epidemic intensity- the result,experts say ,is that the currently available numbers produce a statistical artefact,a distortion.
“This causes any increase in fatality rate because it is based on the most severe cases and not in the totality of those infected”,Galli said.
As of March,15, Italy had carried out about 125,000 tests.
The new coronavirus can infect people of all ages, older adults, whose immune systems have declined with age,appear to be more vulnerable to becoming severely ill after contracting the virus.
85.6 percent of those who have died in Italy are over 70, according to National Institute of health (ISS) latest report.
Italy has the second oldest population in the world after Japan.23 percent of Italians are over 65 years old. Observers believe age distribution could also have played a role in raising the fatality rate.
Another possible factor is Italy’s health care system itself, which provides universal coverage and is largely free of charge.
48 percent of the deceased had three pre-existing illnesses according to ISS’s latest report on COVID-19 victims.
Experts also point to Italy’s “social contact matrix” as another possible reason, although indirect, behind the wider spread of the coronavirus among older people.
“Elderly Italian people, while most of them live by themselves,are not isolated,and their life is characterised by a much more intense interaction with their children and younger population compared to other countries”, said Linda Laura Sabbadani, central director of Italian National Institute of Statistics.
Italy is holding it’s breath in hopes of the pandemic curve flattening, but the strained health care system has been quickly approaching total saturation.
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Experts warn the rest of the world to be prepared,as what is happening in Italy can happen to any country.