“My worry is that it’s a long winter.”
“I have never seen an emergency room so crowded with very, very sick patients,” recalls Annalisa Malara, a doctor at Codogno Hospital in Lombardy, Italy. “We were literally overwhelmed by the number.”
That was late February, when Malara diagnosed Italy’s first case of locally transmitted Covid-19. An emotionally wrenching marathon of hospital shifts followed. Malara felt like she was constantly scrambling — to get enough oxygen to keep patients alive, to arrange transfers to other hospitals, to try and sleep so she could keep going. “We had to watch patients die,” she said. “It’s something that I think I can’t forget — I will never forget.”
More recently, Codogno Hospital has been Covid-19-free. But with case counts rising across the country and the continent again, Malara worries about a return to tragedy. Last week, she spent hours on the phone with colleagues to check on the status of their intensive care units. The situation was stable — though no one was sure how long that would last. “Everyone is very scared,” she confessed.
Only six months after Italy’s coronavirus crisis became a warning to the West about how quickly the virus could strain even the best-resourced health systems in the world, the World Health Organization warned Thursday of a “very serious situation” unfolding again across the agency’s European region, as weekly cases surpassed those reported during the first peak of the pandemic in March. This “should serve as a wake-up call for all of us,” Dr. Hans Kluge, the WHO regional director for Europe, said.
At the country level, the situation is no more reassuring. Italian officials are once again reporting around 1,500 new infections each day. That’s not yet anywhere near the last peak of 6,500 — but it’s a significant rise from 200 in early July. France and Spain, currently the hardest-hit countries in the region, are tracking an onslaught of cases even worse than their springtime peaks. On September 7, Spain became the first European country to count half a million total cases — more than 100,000 of them diagnosed in the two weeks prior. Days later, France recorded a jump of 10,000 new cases in one day. In Austria, between late April and mid-June, cases stayed below 100 for weeks, then gradually rose, with 768 reported on September 16.
Even Germany, an oft-cited example of coronavirus response excellence in Europe, has slowly seen its daily case count edge up, with nearly 2,000 infections — a doubling from August 1.
Original publication 18 September, 2020
Posted on NatCorn 2nd October 2020
Reference to an article does not infer endorsement of any views expressed.